what is probate

What is Probate in Canada: Explained in the Most Basic Way

Probate can sound confusing; it sounds as if it is a complex legal term that involving a lot of paperwork, time, and money. At it’s very core, this process is simply about validating the authenticity of a Last Will and Testament. It is often a misunderstood aspect of estate planning and administration. The Executor distributes the deceased’s assets according to their wishes (just as the Executor would in the case without a Last Will and Testament.) Let’s delve into the various aspects of probate in Canada: how it happens, how long the process takes, how it works, the Executor’s responsibilities, the circumstances requiring the process, and the concept of a Grant of Probate.

What is Probate

When Probate occurs

How long the process takes

When Probate happens

Who Handles Probate?

Do I need a lawyer for Probate?

Grant of Probate

Avoiding Probate

The Next Steps

What is Probate?

This legal procedure takes place after an individual passes away. It serves to officially recognize and authenticate the Last Will in question, which grants the Executor the authority to carry out the deceased’s wishes and distribute their assets among beneficiaries. This process ensures that the deceased’s debts are settled, taxes are paid, and that the assets from the estate are properly distributed.

When Does Probate Happen?

Probate is necessary when there are assets solely in the deceased’s name, and those assets need to be transferred to beneficiaries or sold to settle debts. This occurs in the following situations:

A) Testate Estates: The deceased had a valid Will in place. The court reviews the document to ensure its authenticity and then issues a Grant of Probate to authorize the Executor to carry out the wishes outlined in the Last Will.

B) Intestate: When a person dies without a valid Will, the estate is distributed according to the laws of intestacy. This may vary from province to province. This may require a similar court a Grant of Administration from the courts.

How Long Does It Take for a Will to Go Through Probate in Canada?

The process can be time-consuming: this varies on the complexity of the estate, the workload of the court, and whether or not any disputes or challenges may arise. It may take anywhere from a few months to a year to complete the process.

Executors should expect the following:

  1. Filing the Application: The Executor initiates the process by filing an application for Probate. This is the first step. This step can take a few weeks, because of all of the paperwork required.
  2. Review and Approval: Once the application is filed, the court reviews the Will in question (and the supporting documents) to ensure everything is in order. This can take several weeks to a few months. It depends on the backlog the particular court is facing at that time.
  3. Notification and Waiting Period: Creditors and potential beneficiaries must be notified during this whole extended process. There is typically a waiting period for any potential objections to the Probate process, which can further extend the process.
  4. Distribution of Assets: Once probate is granted, the Executor can begin distributing assets according to the terms of the Will. This also eats up extra time. It becomes even more of a lengthy process when the estate is complex.

How Does Probate Happen?

Probate in Canada occurs at the provincial/territorial level. Each province/territory has it’s own rules and stipulations regarding this process. Executors should file for Probate in the province/territory where the deceased held assets.

Who Handles The Process?

The person responsible for handling the process is known as the executor or estate trustee. This individual is typically named in the deceased’s Last Will. This person is responsible for:

  • Gathering and examining the deceased’s assets. This person evaluates the value of the assets.
  • Paying any outstanding debts, taxes, or liabilities from the estate.
  • Disperse the remaining assets to the beneficiaries as specified in the Last Will.

If there is no Last Will or no Executor, the court in question may appoint an administrator to handle the deceased’s affairs.

Do You Need a Lawyer to Probate a Will in Canada?

It’s not legally required to hire a lawyer to handle probate for a Will in Canada. It may be necessary for estates that are particularly complex. The process involves navigating through legal complexities, preparing legal documentation and ensuring that the documents are in compliance with provincial/territorial laws.

An Executor’s Responsibilities

The Executor is a key figure in this entire probate process:

  • Identifying Assets: Locating and securing all of the assets the deceased owned. This includes any financial accounts, real estate, and personal items.
  • Notifying Individuals: Properly informing creditors, beneficiaries, and other parties about probate.
  • Managing Finances: The Executor should manage the estate’s finances, pay off outstanding debts, funeral expenses, and deal with any tax obligations.
  • Assets: Ensure that the remaining assets are distributed in accordance with the provincial laws.
  • Submit documentation: Prepare and submit all of the necessary paperwork.

Check out this comprehensive executor guide for tips on making the best choice.

Circumstances Requiring Probate

Probate is typically required under various circumstances:

  • Sole Ownership: When the deceased owned assets only in their name (no joint ownership).
  • Real Estate Ownership: Real estate owned in the deceased’s name requires the necessity of the process.
  • Large Estates: Wealthy estates may require the process to streamline equitable distribution.
  • Will Disputes: If disputes arise, the process may be required to resolve these issues.

What Is A Grant Of Probate

A Grant of Probate is a vital legal document issued by the probate court. This verifies the authenticity of the deceased’s Will. It grants authority to the appointed executor to administer the estate. This document is pivotal as it provides the necessary legal authority to access, manage, and distribute the deceased’s assets.

Probate fees are also known estate administration fees. These are the costs associated with the legal process of probate in Canada. These fees can vary across Canada: Ontario, BC, Alberta, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Yukon, Northwest Territories, PEI, and Nunavut.

What Are Probate Fees?

These fees are charges imposed by provincial/territorial governments for the validation and administration of a deceased person’s Will. These fees are typically calculated as a percentage of the total estate value or based on a tiered fee structure. This all depends upon the jurisdiction.

Fees in Ontario

In Ontario, fees are often referred to as an Estate Administration Tax. These are assessed on estates with assets over $50,000. The rate is $15 for every $1,000 of estate value exceeding $50,000.

Fees in BC

In British Columbia, fees are likewise based on the total estate value. These are also based on a tiered fee structure. Fees range from 0.6% to 1.4% of the estate value.

Fees in Alberta

Alberta does not have fees; instead, it has a flat-rate fee for filing a $35 Grant of Probate fee.

Fees in Quebec

Quebec imposes notarial and registration fees instead of traditional fees. These costs are typically lower than the fees in other provinces.

Fees in Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan has a progressive fee structure: this ranges from from 0.7% to 1.5% of the estate’s total value.

Fees in Manitoba

Manitoba calculates fees based on the total value of the estate. Rates vary from 0.5% to 1.5%.

Fees in New Brunswick

New Brunswick assesses fees on estates valued at $10,000 or more. Rates ranging from 0.5% to 1.5%.

Fees in Nova Scotia

In Nova Scotia, fees are calculated as a percentage of the estate value, varying from 0.5% to 1.695%.

Fees in Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador apply fees based on the total estate value, with rates varying from 0.7% to 1.5%.

Fees in Yukon

Yukon assesses fees based on the total value of the estate; rates range from 0.4% to 1.2%.

Fees in Northwest Territories

In the Northwest Territories, fees range between 0.6% to 1.4%.

Fees in PEI

PEI imposes fees based on the total estate value, with rates ranging from 0.5% to 1.5%.

Fees in Nunavut

Nunavut assesses fees based on the total value of the estate, with rates ranging from 0.4% to 1.2%.

How Can I Avoid Probate in Canada?

Avoiding probate in Canada is possible through various strategies:

  1. Joint Ownership: Owning assets jointly with a spouse or family member can bypass the process. Ownership transfers automatically to the surviving co-owner.
  2. Designated Beneficiaries: Naming beneficiaries insurance policies, retirement accounts, and registered savings plans allows your assets to pass directly to beneficiaries.
  3. Gifts: Gifting assets to your loved ones during your lifetime reduces the value of the estate subject to probate.
  4. Establishing Trusts: Creating trusts for specific assets may keep them out of the process.
  5. Small Estate Affidavit: Estates that have low value may qualify for a simplified process.

FAQ: What is Probate Court?

This is a specialized court overseeing the whole process. The function of this court is to: validate Wills, appointing executors/administrators, settling disputes between people involved in probate, and streamlining the deceased’s assets.

FAQ: What is Probate Tax?

This is also known as estate administration tax. These fees are a provincial/territorial fee levied on the estate. It is based on the total value of the estate. It validates the Will and makes the process easier. The tax rate varies depending on the jurisdiction and the value of the estate.

FAQ: What Happens After a Probate is Granted?

After probate is granted, the executor or administrator has the authority to manage the deceased’s assets. This involves the following:

  • Identifying and securing assets.
  • Paying outstanding debts, taxes, and any administrative expenses.
  • Distributing assets to beneficiaries as per the Will or other legal requirements.
  • Keeping detailed records of all transactions related to the estate.

Your next steps

In a nutshell, the entire process is simply to validate the deceased’s Last Will. This includes ensuring that their wishes are respected, their debts are settled, their assets are distributed (the same thing that a Last Will is supposed to do), etc. Probate is just certifying that the Will is validated, but with extra steps.

There are different procedures, fees, and rules for each province: In Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia, the probate process includes submitting the Will to each respective provincial court to be validated. Other provinces may have different procedures. It’s always a good idea to do your research.

The fees for each province can be substantial, so you will want to minimize the fees as much as possible. Some common methods include: joint ownership, designated beneficiaries outside of Wills, trusts, gifts, etc.

Probate doesn’t have to be a confusing process; seek out advice if you need it or start writing your Will online today. This can help you avoid the whole process altogether, or make it easier if the issue does arise.

Start creating your legal will online today in just few easy steps with Formalwill