Wills and Estates FAQs

Tannahill Lockhart & Clark Law LLP

What is a Will?

A person’s will is a written document that sets out the person’s wishes about how his or her estate should be taken care of and distributed after death. It takes effect when the person dies.

What is an Estate?

An estate is the property that a person owns or has a legal interest in. The term is often used to describe the assets and liabilities left by a person after death.

What is a Trust?

A trust is created to hold property or assets for the benefit of a particular person called the beneficiary. It is managed by a person called a trustee, who has an obligation to deal with the property for the beneficiary of the trust. There are many different kinds of trusts.

How Do I Get a Copy of Someone's Will After They Die?

When an estate application with a will has been filed with the Superior Court of Justice, you can contact the court office and request a copy of the person’s will. You will have to pay a fee to the court for the copy. More…

My Spouse Has Died. What Does it Mean to Make an Election Under the Family Law Act?

In law, an election is a legal decision or choice. When a married spouse dies and has left a will, the surviving spouse can make an election to receive:

An equalization payment under the Family Law Act, or His or her entitlement under the will.
When a married spouse dies and there is no will, the surviving spouse can make an election to receive:

An equalization payment, or his or her entitlement as a spouse under the Succession Law Reform Act. A surviving spouse has six months from the date of the spouse’s death to make an election. If an election is not made within six months, the spouse will be granted his or her entitlement under the will, or under the Succession Law Reform Act if there is no will.

The election has important impacts on the rights of the surviving spouse. Surviving spouses should seek legal advice before making an election.

How Do I Apply for Death Benefits?

There are benefits from the federal government, which may be available to a surviving spouse and dependent children of a deceased person and to the deceased person’s estate.

How is An Estate Distributed?

When a person dies with a will, the estate is distributed according to the directions in the will.

When a person dies without a valid will (intestate), Ontario’s law on intestate succession requires a specific distribution of the estate.

How Can I Prove That I am an Heir?

If someone dies without a will in Ontario and the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee is appointed by the Court as the estate trustee, any person claiming a share of the estate will have to prove they are entitled to inherit.

Why is the Public Guardian and Trustee Involved in an Estate or Trust Matter?

The Public Guardian and Trustee plays a role in protecting mentally incapable people, protecting the public’s interest in charities, searching for heirs, investing perpetual care funds and dealing with dissolved corporations.

What If There Is No Named Executor in a Will?

The executor, or personal representative, is the person responsible for carrying out the instructions in a Will once the person who wrote the will, or the testator, has passed. The testator is allowed to choose any competent adult to serve as executor, and most wills appoint an executor of the estate. However, if the Will does not mention an executor, the probate court will appoint someone to be the executor.

Why Should I Update My Will?

To ensure that the bequests are current.
To ensure that the beneficiaries are current.
To ensure that new assets do not fall into the residue of the Estate.
To ensure your Estate is administered in a cost-efficient manner and maximizes the inheritance received by the beneficiary(ies).

The source for some of the information on this page is from the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee. http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/justice-ont/estate_planning.php