A will allows you to specify how you want your assets to be distributed after your death. As such, a legally valid will ensures the distribution of assets according to your wishes. The word “intestate” means a situation where someone has died without a will. In Ontario, Part II of the Succession Law Reform Act determines the distribution of your assets and sets out the laws of intestacy.
In the absence of a will, the Superior Court of Justice for Ontario issues a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee (without a will). This document was formerly known as letters of administration. The two terms mean the same thing. The Certificate appoints an administrator to manage the deceased person’s estate. This means that the administrator bears responsibility for identifying and collecting assets, paying off any debts, and distributing the remaining assets according to Ontario law.
This typically involves distributing assets to your closest relatives, such as your spouse and children. A common law spouse does not inherit under the Succession Law Reform Act.
Having a will makes the process of distributing assets much easier and less time-consuming. This reduces the burden on the surviving family members as well as on the probate court. A will allows the deceased to specify:
Without a will, the court and/or the Succession Law Reform Act decides these issues.
Additionally, if a person has minor children, a will can name a legal guardian for them. Without a will, the court may appoint someone that the deceased would not have chosen.
So in conclusion, it remains preferable to make a will but a separate and related process still exists for administering the estate of a person who dies intestate. For more information or if you need a lawyer to help winding up an estate, contact us.