Probate with a Will
Being named estate trustee in a Will is just the first step in distributing a friend or loved one's estate when they pass on. Before you begin, you will need to apply to Ontario Superior Court of Justice to get court authorization to act on the deceased's behalf.
Probate court is where a deceased's final Will and testament is validated as genuine and your appointment as estate trustee confirmed. As long as there is a Will, a visit to probate court is a wise move for any Ontario executor.
Why is Probate Needed With a Will?
Probate makes collecting assets easier and affirms to beneficiaries you have the court's approval to deal with real estate and personal possessions the deceased has left behind. A probate certificate allows you to access financial accounts, settle debts, pay final income taxes and use the deceased's assets to pay mortgages and other estate expenses.
Axess Law's Ontario probate lawyers prepare sworn and notarized affidavits to make court applications for a certificate of appointment as estate trustee with a Will. We take the worry out of completing court documents and getting court approval to administer an Ontario estate.
Whether you are the only applicant or next-of-kin or others challenge your right to be estate trustee, Axess Law gives you practical legal advice at affordable fees or referrals to services that can assist you. We answer all your questions to make administering a final estate easier.
Asset You Need to Probate in Ontario
Assets where probate is legally required include:
- Ontario real estate (see exceptions under Avoiding Probate Court)
- bank accounts in Canadian or foreign banks, unless they are jointly owned
- investments left to the estate, such as stocks, bonds, mutual fund units
- TFSAs, RRSPs or RRIFs left to an estate
- RESPs in a single subscriber’s name, which become an estate asset
- vehicles, including cars, trucks, boats, motorcycles or trailers, regardless of where they are located
- goods or material, such as personal possessions
- business property and interests, such as a family-owned store or shares in businesses
- insurance policies left to an estate.
Avoiding Probate Court in Ontario
By now you may be wondering, how can you avoid probate with a Will? Depending on the circumstances, small estates under $50,000 or where specific assets are left to designated survivors or beneficiaries may not require probate.
Many Will makers create multiple Wills to reduce estate administration taxes. A secondary Will may include assets that do not require probate, meaning you only need to probate the primary Will in an Ontario court.
Probate makes personal Wills public information. You may prefer to keep financial information private by avoiding probate altogether. Assets where probate is not necessary include:
- real estate owned outside Ontario
- some real property owned by joint tenants, typically a spouse or adult child
- death benefits from Canada Pension Plan (CPP)
- jointly owned bank accounts, RRSPs, RRIFs or TFSAs with named beneficiaries, not ‘estate’
- life insurance policies with named beneficiaries other than ‘estate’
- RESPs where both spouses or partners were joint subscribers.
How Long is Probate With a Will?
How long probate takes with a Will depends on the size and complexity of the deceased's estate. Probate can take weeks or months in smaller centres or months in the Greater Toronto Area. We have probate lawyers nearby who can meet with you in person or, if it's more convenient, arrange online video calls anywhere in Ontario to discuss probate procedures. We work with the court to process probate applications as quickly as possible.
Why You Need a Probate Lawyer
Applying for probate with a Will requires an application to a court in the area where the deceased lived, affidavits from witnesses who executed the original Will and an estimation of the value of the deceased's assets. Axess Law's Greater Toronto Area Wills attorneys prepare legal documents for filing in Ontario probate court and advise you on legal technicalities you may not know about.
We can refer you to qualified lawyers who can defend you in court if your appointment or decisions as estate trustee are questioned. Our probate lawyers can also prepare court forms if you want to resign as estate trustee, before you begin administering the estate or if you find the task is more than you can manage.
Documents We Need
Bring the following documents to your first Axess Law appointment:
- the deceased's original Will
- 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 list of beneficiaries.
We follow up by email or remote video conference if we have questions about your documents or any are missing. We can even advise you where to find Wills if you are having problems locating the original or last Will and testament.
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 due when the probate application is submitted, by bank draft payable to the Ontario Minister of Finance.
Book Probate Consultations Online
Your first probate consultation is free of charge and obligation free at Axes Law. We give you a quote at your first appointment. You can talk to our lawyers about the basic details of the Will you want to probate and decide what to do next.
Book probate appointments online or phone 1-647-479-0118 to speak with our probate consultants via online video conference, anywhere in Ontario. Axess Law has Greater Toronto District law offices near you and can meet in person if you prefer.