Are you an executor of an Ontario estate and unsure what to do next? Let an Axess Law Ontario probate lawyer advise you, with a timely probate consultation.
Probating a Will in Ontario ensures you have legal authority to act as the executor on behalf of the deceased’s estate, before you distribute it. It prevents costly and time consuming legal errors many first-time estate trustees make.
Whether you're estate trustee, personal representative or executor, your legal obligations to the deceased and beneficiaries are the same. Axess Law's Greater Toronto Area probate attorney consultations help you understand your essential role and responsibilities.
What is Probating a Will?
When you agree to be estate trustee in Ontario, you take on legal authority to manage a deceased's assets according to their final wishes.
Many Ontarians have no Will and die intestate. Those who write an original Will often leave valuable information out. Without regular updating, personal Wills can become quickly irrelevant where family status, investments or property holdings are concerned.
Probate applications prove if a document is the deceased's last Will and testament. An Ontario court judge reviews original Wills and codicils (changes made by the Will writer or estate attorney) to confirm their validity. If all your legal papers are in order, the judge issues a certificate of appointment of estate trustee with a Will. It's the final step authorizing you to distribute an estate.
When there is no last Will and testament, a probate application can appoint an executor on behalf of the deceased’s estate.
Once you have court approval, you can obtain bank and investment statements, hold estate sales, sell or rent real estate and give beneficiaries assets the deceased wanted loved ones to have.
Why Probate a Will?
Probating a Will can be a straightforward legal task or complex if next-of-kin challenge your appointment. Unless the estate you are administering is very small (under $50,000), Axess Law's probate attorneys highly recommend it.
Many Wills have errors or gaps that make their legal validity questionable. Courts can decline to confirm a Will that is problematic and treat the deceased's estate as if there is no Will. If an estate trustee is too young (under 18), mentally infirm, senile or unable to execute the Will, the court may appoint someone else to carry on.
Talk to us at Axess Law for advice on:
- legal requirements for handwritten or holographic Wills
- executing unsigned Wills
- if unwitnessed Wills are legally valid
- improperly witnessed Wills
- Will maker was too young
- Will maker was mentally incapable
- undue coercion or improper influence when making a Will.
Axess Law's experienced probate attorneys help you through the process and come to your aid when a Will is challenged in court.
Isn't Probate Optional?
Probate can be optional for certain estates that are small (under $50,000), organized to avoid probate or if beneficiaries agree not to challenge the Will or estate trustee certificate. Banks, credit unions and investment companies are reluctant to grant access to a deceased's financial accounts without proof you are the estate trustee. Regardless of how modest or straightforward an Ontario estate may be, you still may need to probate a Will.
You Need Probate If:
- The deceased owned real estate of their own or with others, not jointly with a spouse or common law partner.
- They had personal bank accounts besides a joint spousal account.
- Their bank, credit union, investment advisor or creditors need evidence you are the estate trustee.
- Foreign or non-registered investments are involved, such as stocks, bonds or options.
- The estate is named beneficiary for insurance, RRSPs, RRIFs or TFSAs.
- They have property outside Ontario, such as vehicles, trailers or ATVs.
You Don't Need Probate for:
Some Will makers include assets not requiring probate in secondary Wills, such as:
- real estate located outside Ontario
- bank accounts or Ontario property owned with joint tenants that can be transferred using a survivorship application
- pensions and Canada Pension Plan death benefits
- insurance or registered assets like RRSPs, RRIFs or TFSAs with named beneficiaries
- or RESPs with joint subscribers.
Assets with named beneficiaries or subject to rights of survivorship can pass outside a Will, with no probate required.
Why You Need a Probate Lawyer
Axess Law's Ontario probate consultants are highly experienced and can help you apply for probate in a court near you. They offer legal advice on Ontario estate law, review Wills for probate and draft probate applications with a Will or without a Will. They can even inform you about filing deadlines for final income taxes and estate tax returns and to ensure creditors, mortgages and property taxes are paid on time.
As estate trustee, you hope probate will go quickly and efficiently. Errors or omissions on court forms can delay your application. Having a probate lawyer reduces how long is needed for probate applications to be granted. We guide you through the process to ensure everything is in order and advise you what to do if others object to your application.
Probate can take two to four weeks in smaller municipalities or months in the Greater Toronto Area. Our probate lawyers nearby can meet with you in person or, if it's more convenient, arrange probate video calls anywhere in Ontario.
How to Probate an Ontario Will
Applications for probate must be filed at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice office in the region where the deceased lived. Axess Law's probate lawyers can advise you step by step on how to file for probate and when.
We can also assist you if the confirmed estate trustee resigns or dies before they can probate a Will or are asked to post a bond to act as estate trustee. Applications to waive bonds are complicated. Asking an Axess Law probate lawyer to represent you saves you time if you are in unfamiliar legal territory.
Documents We Need
Bring the deceased's original Will to your Axess Law appointment. Our probate consultants may also need to see:
- codicils or changes to the original Will
- affidavits of execution from witnesses who signed Wills
- the death certificate, proof of death or Declarations of Death Act order (for missing persons)
- estimates of the estate's value
- and a preliminary list of beneficiaries, if you have it.
Don't worry if you have valued all the estate assets yet or don't have a complete list of beneficiaries. Your initial efforts are fine for our purposes.
What to Expect in Ontario Probate Court
Probate court judges will examine the probate application your Axess Law lawyer presents. The court will then collect the estate administration tax, based on the estimated value.
- no tax on the first $50,000 or less
- and $15 for every $1,000 after $50,000.
Taxes are owed when the probate application is submitted, via bank draft payable to the Minister of Finance.
Book Probate Consultations in Ontario
Axess Law gives you a probate consultation and free quote at your first appointment. Book appointments online or phone 1-647-479-0118 to speak with our probate consultants via online video conference, anywhere in Ontario. Google Axess Law and probate lawyer near me for consultation or a list of our Greater Toronto District law offices.