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What happens if you die without a will in Ontario?

A woman thinking about what to do after her husband died without a will in Ontario

As many as three-quarters of Canadians don’t have an up to date will. While it may be uncomfortable attending to questions about your own mortality, a will is an important and necessary document to protect your estate.

Dying without a will moves control of the future of your estate out of your own hands and allows it to be divided according to legislation, where valued friends or figures in your life may be closed out as even estranged family members may get priority.

The Ontario Succession Law Reform Act

Ontario has clear laws that determine how your estate will be divided if you pass on before writing a will.

  • If you have a spouse and no children, they will inherit your entire estate
  • If you have a spouse and children, your spouse will get the majority share, called the preferential share, of up to $200,000 in assets. The rest is divided between your spouse and children.
  • If you don’t have a spouse and you do have children, they split the estate evenly. If any of the children have died, their descendants are entitled to the share.
  • If you have no spouse or children, your parents inherit the estate.
  • If you have no living spouse, children or parents, your siblings will divide your estate
  • If you have no living sibling, any nieces or nephews will inherit equal portions of your estate
  • If no nieces or nephews then the estate will pass to any living relatives
  • If there are no living next of kin then the estate passes on to the government of Ontario

Having a clearly written will speeds up the procedure, meaning that it is a valuable exercise to complete even if you plan to divy up your estate in the same way as outlined above.

In some cases, the court may appoint a personal representative who can influence how the estate is distributed.

When to update your will

Everyone should take the time to revisit their will when they reach an important milestone in their life. From getting married to having children to retiring, each stage of life juggles one’s priorities and this should be reflected in your will. Likewise, any change in your finances may require a review of your will.

Updating a will is not an especially time-consuming nor an expensive process, and it plays a vital role in ensuring that your earnings and assets are divided according to your wishes.

The more detailed and deliberate your will is, the more certain you will be that it is followed, since surviving friends or family may challenge a will if there seems to be inconsistencies or the impression of undue influence.

Contact Epstein & Associates today for a free consultation where you can learn about the process of writing or updating your will.