Earlier this month I met with a client who shared the sad news that his father had passed away. Along with dealing with the emotional loss of a parent, he is now tasked with the distribution of his estate. The biggest issue being, locating his will.
The will is an important document. It allows the deceased person to provide directions after passing. Instructions include, but are not limited to, who will look after the distribution of assets, who gets what, who is responsible for caring for minors, etc.
Without such a document, there can be delays in settling the estate, not to mention misdirected assets.
In my client’s case, he was unaware of any will. However, after going through his father’s computer and other personal documents, there was evidence of the creation of one, or at least thoughts of, estate distribution. Following several days of unsuccessful searches, he initiated a search on the “Canada Will Registry”. This is a database where people can register their completed wills. People who choose to create their own will should register it on the registry. Those completed by a legal professional will already have been done.
My client is in the midst of his search, which is into its 2nd week — thus, further delaying the process of distributing the estate. If the search reveals that there was no will registered, then the process of applying to the provincial court to be named as the “personal representative” or “estate trustee” must be initiated.
Upon appointment, my client will have to distribute the assets according to the intestacy laws in Ontario. They are as follows:
- if the deceased leaves a spouse, but no children, the spouse receives the entire estate
- if the deceased leaves a spouse and children, the spouse receives the first $200,000 and the spouse and children divide the remainder of the estate equally
- if the deceased leaves children but no spouse, the children divide the estate equally between them
- if the deceased leaves no children or spouse, the deceased’s parents inherit the estate
- if the deceased leaves no children, spouse or parents, the siblings of the deceased divide the estate equally between them (with the children of any sibling who has already died receiving their parent’s share)
- if the deceased leaves no children, spouse, parents or siblings, the nieces and nephews of the deceased divide the estate equally between them
- if the deceased leaves no children, spouse, parents, siblings or niblings, the estate of the deceased is divided equally by all other next of kin
- if the deceased has no next of kin at all, then the estate goes to the Ontario government.
Unless, you would like your estate to be distributed according to the intestacy laws or you don’t need immediate access to funds, then we strongly suggest having a will in place. It will save your loved ones the administrative headache and ensure that the appropriate people are gifted with what you intend.