AREAS OF PRACTICE

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Estate Applications (Probate)

While often referred to as an Executor, a person who settles an estate according to the deceased’s wishes is called an Estate Trustee with a Will in Ontario. Probate is the process whereby the court confirms the Estate Trustee and acknowledges their authority to distribute the assets of a deceased’s estate. Where required, the government grants this authority by issuing a probate certificate known as a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee With (or Without) a Will. The purpose of probate is to ensure that the Will has been examined, notice given to all interested parties, and that all taxes and liabilities are paid. 

Settling an estate requires due diligence in identifying and locating all assets for distribution, paying off the estate’s debts, and distributing property and funds to the designated beneficiaries. It can be a complicated task involving preparing and filing many documents and corresponding with a number of interested parties and the courts, particularly where there is any contention as to the validity of the Will.

There are certain kinds of assets for which probate may not be required. Property that is jointly-owned automatically devolves to the surviving owner by right of survivorship. For instance, in the case of a husband and wife who own their home jointly, the surviving spouse needs only a death certificate to put the title of the home into his or her name alone. Insurance policies are another common example, as probate is not required where there is a named beneficiary, as is the case with RRSPs, RRIFs, life insurance, pensions and other similar assets.

Administering an estate can be a daunting undertaking; we are happy to help clients navigate the numerous legal and financial complexities involved.