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Ten Things That Happen if You Die Without a Will in Ontario

  1. Common-law spouses do not automatically inherit your assets. If you were not formally married, common-law spouses may need to prove their dependency in order to be entitled to anything regardless of the length of time you resided together.

  2. Your closest relative will be first in line to administer your estate. Your common-law spouse may not be considered a relative so the closest relative may be your adult children. If they cannot agree on which of them will be “in charge” the court will decide after an expensive and time-consuming court petition. If you have no spouse or children it gets more complex and it may fall to your grieving parents to step up.

  3. Your estate distribution will be in accordance with the law. If you are legally married to your spouse they are entitled to receive the first $200,000.00 and a portion thereafter depending on how many children you have. If you have no children your spouse will inherit your entire estate. Your personal items will be distributed according to the law. These will be valued and divided as part of your estate. If you want a niece to receive her grandmother’s rings passed down to you, that will not happen unless you make specific mention of it in a Will.

  4. Everything you own will be valued for estate tax purposes before it is distributed to your heirs. If you want to maximize the value of your estate you need to do some estate planning including naming beneficiaries on insurance policies as well as make a Will.  

  5. Even if you wanted to provide for your grandchildren this will not happen because your assets will be divided between your spouse and children. The only way for a grandchild to inherit anything if you don’t have a Will is for their parent, your child, to predecease you. Making a Will is much less painful.

  6. If you are financially supporting an elderly parent or paying for a grandchild’s education that aid could be discontinued by your court appointed Trustee. Those you are assisting financially would have to depend on the good-will of your court appointed Estate Trustee.

  7. Your funeral and burial arrangement will be made by your court appointed Trustee. This means that your wishes may not be taken into consideration and will be done in accordance with the preferences of the Trustee or based only on cost.

  8. No portion of your estate will be given to Charities that you support. If you want to leave money to your church or a local hospital this will not happen unless you specify this bequest in a Will.

  9. Who the guardian of your minor children will be is out of your control. If your child has no other active parent in the picture there could be an argument between grandparents or your children could be divided between homes. The court will make the decision without your input.

  10. If you have no next-of-kin your entire estate goes to the Ontario government. Remember next-of-kin does not include common-law spouses, lifelong best friends or un-adopted step children. The Office of the Public Guardian & Trustee will step in to administer your estate and seize your assets.