Dying without a Will in Ontario

Dying without a Will invites a host of problems and Ontario is no exception. In this article we look at the Succession Law Reform Act of Ontario which governs the distribution of property to surviving relatives under Ontario law. Before we proceed, let’s examine the general problems that arise when there is no Will or an estate is ‘Intestate.’

Dying without a Will creates delays

Dying without a Will always creates unnecessary delays and additional expenses. Either government officials or a member of your family (usually your closest relative) needs to be sought and appointed by the court to act as your representative. They need to obtain a ‘Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee without a Will’ to enable them to manage and distribute the deceased estate. Fortunately the distribution of the estate can only be delayed by up to one year according to law.
The property is seldom distributed as you would have wished
When someone dies without a Will, the property is distributed in accordance with the laws of the province which may not be as they would have wanted. For example, if there is a spouse they do not have the right to:

  1. Automatically inherit the property of the deceased…
  2. Decide on the person that arranges the distribution of the assets…
  3. Decide what will be distributed to the children and at what age.

The distribution is decided not by family, or even a judge based on merits of the case, but strictly in accordance with the provincial distribution laws at the time, which in the case of Ontario is:

The Succession Law Act of Ontario

As the name suggests, the estate is awarded according to the succession of the surviving family and distribution is as follows:
If the deceased is survived by:
A Spouse only – The Spouse (legally married only) is awarded everything.
A Spouse and 1 Child – First R200,000 to the Spouse and the balance (Residue) equally divided with the Child.

A Spouse and Children – The first $200,000 is awarded to the Spouse, plus one third of the residue. The balance is equally divided amongst the Children.
Children but no Spouse – the estate is equally divided amongst the Children.
No Spouse or Children – The deceased parents are awarded everything.
No Spouse, Children or Parents – The deceased Brothers and Sisters inherit equally.

Seek legal advice on Wills and estates

The succession goes on right down to the Ontario government being awarded the estate if there is no Will or any surviving relatives. This is just an overview to assist if a relative of yours may have been deceased and unfortunately overlooked having a will drafted, or possibly you need to have a Will drafted yourself? Dying without a Will in Ontario, or in any province for that matter, is not a good idea, so consult with one of the excellent attorneys specializing in Wills and estates in Ontario for peace of mind ‘in the living years!’