A Quick Guide to Estates and Estate Trustees

Anytime is a good time to make a will, the sooner the better. Advance planning makes it easier on family and friends. It ensures your assets go where you intended.

What Is an Estate Anyway?

Your estate is your assets and liabilities. It includes property and possessions such as real estate, investments and belongings. A family business or anything you have a legal interest in can be part of your estate. 

What Happens When You Die

Hopefully, you have willed or left your assets to your heirs or estate. By making a will, you appoint an estate trustee. They manage or distribute your estate after your death. Your trustee pays any debts from your assets and carries out your final wishes. By the way, be sure you tell a relative, friend or your lawyer where your will is. Otherwise, your estate trustee’s first task will be finding it.

What Happens if You Have No Will?

Having a will gives you control over how your assets are divided. Without one, your heirs or government must apply to the court to appoint an estate trustee and divide your assets according to the Succession Law Reform Act.

Who Can Be an Estate Trustee?

Your estate trustee can be a family member, friend, lawyer, trust company, accountant or the Ontario Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee. You may pay a fee for their services or leave a friend or family member something in compensation. Being a trustee can be complex and time consuming. Be sure your appointee confirms they accept the responsibilities involved.

How Your Estate is Divided Up

Your estate designate will go to Ontario Superior Court of Justice to get a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee. The certificate gives your trustee authority to act on your behalf. “Probate”, as it’s called, formally approves your last and final will. The Ontario Estates Act and Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure (Rules 74 and 75) include directions for probating your estate.

Can You Have Named Beneficiaries Outside Your Will?

You can name beneficiaries to receive certain financial assets, such as RRSPs or bank accounts. Beneficiaries receive assets outside the probate process. It’s quicker and avoids probate taxes. Your heirs may wait months or years for your estate to go through court and be settled. Consider naming beneficiaries if ensuring your children or spouse have immediate access to your assets is important.

Handling Estate Disputes

Axess Law’s wills and estates lawyers can advise you or your estate trustee on how to proceed in case of a legal dispute. They can also assist with court applications, explain legal duties and answer questions about estate taxes.

Are Handwritten Wills Legal in Ontario?

A “holograph” will, completely written in your own handwriting and not typed or on a pre-printed form, can be a valid will. Every word must be in your own handwriting and it must be signed and dated. No witnesses are required. As wills can be contested, Axess Law recommends a formal will. 

Let’s Get Started

Get started on your estate planning with an Axess Law wills and estate lawyer today. Call 1-877-552-9377 or use our online booking form to make an appointment. Lawyers are available 7 days a week, at times convenient for you. We can meet in person, by phone, email or remote video call.
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