Once a person dies with an estate plan in place, it’s time for that plan to be enacted. Estate administration can be an involved process, but the estates of many Ontario residents are considered to be small, meaning having a value of $150,000 or less. These estates still have to move through the probate process, and having a clear indication of what that means is necessary.
The only person who can legally administer a person’s will is the estate executor or trustee – that is, the person named in the will. It is necessary for this person to understand the probate process, but also for beneficiaries of the estate to have some idea as to what will transpire as well. For probate, an executor or trustee is asking the court to:
- Agree that the will of the decedent is in fact, the last and final will
- Give an individual the green light to act as the executor or trustee of the estate
- Ensure the person named as the estate executor or trustee actually does have the authority to do so
Two ways of applying
Depending upon the value of the estate, there are two ways of applying for probate. As of April, 1, 2021, if the estate has a total value of $150,000 or less, a trustee or executor can apply for probate via the small estate court process. If the estate value is more than that, the estate must be probated through the regular court process. Besides the executor or trustee named in the will, those able to apply for probate include a court-ordered estate trustee and anyone entitled under legislation to apply. For those who die intestate – without a will – a spouse or common-law spouse usually has first rights to apply, followed by family members.
An Ontario lawyer experienced with estate administration can enlighten a client further about probate, including how to apply, and may be able to provide assistance with completing forms. Having some understanding of the probate process could make the tasks associated with it much less confusing and significantly reduce the odds of any potential issues.