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Guide to Transferring Property After Death in Ontario

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Losing a loved one is a deeply emotional experience that can effect many people. Even during these times of grief, there are still many practical matters that could need attention, such as the transfer of remaining property according to the deceased’s wishes. If your loved one resided in Ontario and left a valid will, this guide will help you understand the process of transferring their property efficiently and with minimal stress.

If your loved one did not leave a will, click here.

A Brief Overview of Property Transfer with a Will

When a will is present, the executor or trustee mentioned in it will be responsible for starting the probate process, which is the procedure required to prove and register a deceased person’s will with the court. Afterward, the executor or trustee named in the will, will receive a Certificate of Appointment of Trustee, which allows them to handle the deceased person’s assets, pay debts, and distribute all the assets of the deceased according to their wishes. This certificate is crucial for the executor to be able to carry out their responsibilities and manage the estate effectively. 

Note: The probate process is not needed if the deceased owns the property as a Joint Tenant.

What Happens If There is No Will?

If a will is not available, the assets of the deceased will be distributed by the government in accordance with the rules set out in the Ontario Succession Law Reform Act. The absence of a will at the time of passing means that the distribution of the deceased person’s estate will be determined by the provincial government, rather than by their own wishes. That’s why it’s important to prepare a will beforehand to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your own preferences and that the process is made much easier for your loved ones.

Transfer of Property After Death with a Will in Ontario: A Step-by-Step Guide

Let’s have a look at the detailed process of transferring ownership of property after death in Ontario:

1. Documentation and Executor Identification

The first step involves finding the deceased’s will to know their final wishes, particularly regarding property and the designation of trustees and beneficiaries. It is also important to locate any financial records that are crucial for accurately valuing the estate. This way, you can gain comprehensive details on the deceased’s finances, which helps the executor prevent any potential complications during the probate process.

2. Beginning the Probate Journey

The probate process is important for two major reasons:

  • Authenticating the will
  • Authorizing the legal transfer of the property

The executor or trustee needs to prepare and submit the required documents, including proof of death certificate, the last will and testament, and all relevant court forms. They must also calculate any due taxes that must be paid when submitting the application. Additionally, it’s essential to distribute a copy of the probate application to all the beneficiaries.

If the property is owned in joint tenancy, then a real estate lawyer should be hired to prepare the survivorship application. This step removes the name of the deceased from the title of the assets, and the survivors then automatically become the owners.

3. Sending Notifications and Reviewing Finances

Next, all necessary parties must be informed about the death of the individual, including financial institutions, government bodies, or any joint property owners. This ensures that the deceased’s accounts can be managed properly, either by freezing them or transferring their ownership to the survivor.

It’s also important to assess and settle financial liabilities linked to the deceased’s property. For example, any remaining mortgage amount should be cleared first, along with taxes or other similar debts, to ensure a smooth transfer.

4. Initiating the Title Transfer at the Land Titles Office and Completing the Process

The executor or surviving owner of the property will have to file the title transfer at the Land Titles Office. The process involves filling out important forms and paying applicable fees. This step must be followed whether a survivorship claim was made or not.

Once all legal prerequisites are fulfilled and outstanding issues settled, the property title can be updated. This ensures the property is legally registered under the names of rightful beneficiaries or remaining co-owners.

Expenses Associated with Transferring Property After Death in Ontario

When transferring property ownership following a death in Ontario, be aware of several potential costs:

  • Estate Administration Tax: Also known as probate fees, this varies depending on the total value of the deceased’s assets. It’s significant for legally validating the will. The general fee structure involves:
    • No charges if estates are valued up to $50,000
    • $15 for every $1,000 of property value above $50,000, capped at 1.5% of the total amount of the assets in the estate
  • Legal Costs: To ensure that the legal aspects of the property transfer are handled with precision, it is recommended that you hire a real estate lawyer or solicitor. This process will incur legal fees and will depends on the complexity of the estate, the lawyer’s rates, and the specific services that are required. The executor should secure a detailed fee agreement early in the process to have a better idea of the costs that they may incur.
  • Disbursements: These encompass any additional expenses that are incurred by the legal representative during various stages of the process, such as document preparation, registration, searches, etc.
  • Land Transfer Tax: In Ontario, a land transfer tax that is based on the property’s real-time value applies when changing property ownership.
  • Valuation Fees: Professional appraisal services might be needed to verify the market value of the deceased’s assets, which can add to overall expenses based on the property’s size, location, and valuation complexity.
  • Title Transfer Fees: The Land Titles Office charges a small fee for updating property records to new ownership, which is typically an administrative cost for processing the transfer smoothly.
  • Maintenance and Settling Debts: Additional expenses might arise from required maintenance or repairs of the property or settling relevant debts like utility bills.

Wrapping Up

This guide outlines the process of transferring property in Ontario after a person’s death when there is a valid will. Following these steps ensures that your loved one’s wishes are honored and that their legacy is transferred smoothly. It’s important to seek professional legal advice by hiring a real estate lawyer for expert guidance on navigating the intricate estate and property laws in Ontario.