Stay on top of trends and changes in making Wills and estates, Ontario. Estate law is evolving and that could require you to update your Wills.
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What’s New for Wills Ontario
Separating and divorcing couples have new responsibilities under Bill 245, the Accelerated Access to Justice Act passed April 20, 2021 that revises various Ontario laws.
- Your Will stays intact when you remarry.
- Separated spouses lose property rights.
- Minors can inherit or receive more money with less red tape.
- Written documents can be filed in French at any courthouse.
- Virtual Wills and powers of attorney are now legal.
They’re just a few of the changes coming into effect if you’re divorced or separated, some as early as Jan. 1, 2022.
Justice for Ontario Families
That’s not all.
Small estates are simplified under the Smarter and Stronger Justice Act, introduced in 2020.
The Office of the Children’s Lawyer has new report making rights under the Courts of Justice Act.
New Trends in Making Wills
Digital assets like emails and social media can be lost when you pass away. Axess Law explains how to create a digital asset vault. (See Make a Digital Asset Vault below.)
Let’s get started.
Remarrying and Ontario Wills
Remarrying after divorce used to revoke Ontario Wills. No more and for good reason.
Unless you make new Wills after marrying, the law assumes you died without a Will. That can leave valuable estate assets to new and possibly predatory spouses.
What happened to actor Mickey Rooney’s estate isn’t news to Ontario estate planners. Bill 245 thwarts abusers who try to exert undue influence on vulnerable adults and the elderly. It requires couples marrying after Jan. 1, 2022 to remake their Wills, removing divorced spouses (if desired) and leaving assets to those they choose.
Property Rights for Separated Couples
Separated couples no longer have to fear leaving an estate to a spouse by mistake. Bill 245 removes property rights and estate trustee appointments for separated spouses, treating them the same as divorced partners.
Legal divorce divides marital property. But before Bill 245, if you died without updating your Will while separated, your spouse could inherit your estate as if you were still married. Starting Jan. 1, 2022, that changes, taking away property rights currently protected under Ontario family law.
You are separated if you:
- live apart for three years, or
- make a valid informal separation agreement, or
- obtain a court-ordered separation agreement.
You can still include your separated spouse in your Will. Axess Law helps you write a new, legally valid Will to leave gifts to next-of-kin and others.
Fewer Court Costs for Parents and Guardians
Ontario is cutting through red tape on inheritances and money owed children by removing the threshold before going to court. Currently, parents with lawful decision making responsibility or legal guardians of children’s property can accept up to $10,000 on a child’s behalf before having to make a court application. The new threshold will be set by regulation. Watch for more to come on this change to the Children’s Law Reform Act.
Right to File in French
All Ontario courthouses now accept written legal documents in French, respecting the right of Franco-Ontarians to use their preferred or native language in court.
Virtual Wills and POAs Legal
Axess Law offers legal services anywhere in Ontario, using secure, online virtual software. Bill 245 now makes it permanently legal to draft and sign Ontario Wills and powers of attorney (POAs) online. Our Wills and estates lawyers meet you remotely via convenient, online video call services or, if preferred, in person.
Before Bill 245, Axess Law could discuss estate planning by videoconference. But we required you to come into our Greater Toronto Area or Ottawa locations to witness and sign Wills and power of attorney documents. That changed during COVID-19. The new law extends virtual Wills and POAs by making it permanent.
We draft Wills and POA documents and witness over video while you and your own witness sign. You receive an emailed copy of our signature and file all three copies to make a legal Will or POA.
Simplifies Distributing Small Estates
Ontario estates under $150,000 can now be distributed using a simpler application form. A new small estate certificate will be issued by Ontario probate court. It’s equivalent to a certificate of appointment of estate trustee but limits estate trustees’ authority to just those assets listed on it. Trustees have fewer documents to file.
Financial bonds are eliminated for small estates, as long as the deceased had no minor children or incapable dependents. That’s good news: trustees no longer have to prove good faith by posting a bond for twice the estate’s value.
New at the Office of the Children’s Lawyer (OCL)
Faster reporting by the OCL will make it easier for families to get decisions on children’s views affecting parenting time, contact orders or decision-making responsibility. Also new: OCL reports can be used as court evidence.
Make a Digital Asset Vault
Facebook posts, Tweets, Instagram photos, Tik-Tok videos and email records die with you if you forget to make a digital asset vault.
Internet and social media providers are not required to release passwords or account information to next-of-kin or your estate. Giving an estate trustee or designate updated account information ensures they can:
- access bank records or business decisions in emails
- retrieve Bitcoin accounts
- renew personal or business domains
- protect online intellectual property
- preserve photos stored on the cloud
- update Facebook and social media accounts
- or give family a way to create online memory books.
Axess Law includes your digital asset wishes in your Wills, making the transition easier.
Low Flat Rate Legal Services
Writing a new Will is cheaper than constantly changing Wills throughout your life. When you need lawyers for Wills, our low flat rate fees start at just $199.99. Make a Will and power of attorney for only $50 more. Update Wills often, any time you separate, divorce, remarry, have children, adopt or your income or investments change significantly.
Book Lawyers Online Toronto Area and Ottawa
Axess Law Wills and estate lawyers meet with you in person at any of our law offices (Toronto Area or Ottawa) to advise on organizing your estate. Remote online video conferencing lawyers are available 7 days a week, anywhere in Ontario. Use our easy online booking form to make appointments or find a Wills lawyer near you by dialing our 1-647-479-0118 lawyer line (toll free to 1-877-402-4277).
We have onsite parking and easy access to public transit.