Most estates end up going through the probate process. Ontario residents’ wills need to have a legal stamp of approval in the courts. This probate process also formally appoints the estate’s executor.
Most provinces, including Ontario, charge a fee to probate wills. However, there are some ways to minimize those fees. If an estate includes an RRSP or an RRIF, probate fees will be waived if beneficiaries have been designated for them. The same goes for death benefits on life insurance policies. When residents name beneficiaries other than their estates, assets are outside the jurisdiction of the estate and will go directly to the beneficiaries named.
If people whose wills are being probated owned joint property with the right of survivorship, then the assets will go right to the joint owners who will be able to avoid probate fees associated with the property. By the same token, those who don’t have assets at the time of their deaths because they gave the assets away while they were alive will see a reduction in value of their estates. So, there will also be less probate fees associated with the estate.
Ontario residents can have multiple wills. One will could be fashioned for assets that must be probated and one will for those that don’t require it. These wills are best drafted by an Ontario lawyer experienced in wills and estates law to make sure one will doesn’t negate the other. Another way to avoid probate is to establish a trust for assets. A lawyer can help with placing assets in a trust such as a testamentary trust for a spouse, which will also avoid probate a second time when the surviving spouse dies.
Source: The Globe and Mail, “Where there’s a will: How to minimize probate fees“, Tim Cestnick, Accessed on July 28, 2017