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What happens when someone dies without a will?

When someone dies without having left any written instructions regarding what to do about their assets and debts, it’s known as dying intestate. Ontario residents who die without wills often leave their loved ones in an unenviable position. How will the person’s property be divided, who will administer the estate and what would the loved one have wanted in terms of a funeral? These are all questions that could have been addressed by having an estate plan.

Division of the estate

In Ontario, the state will decide how the deceased person’s belongings will be divided if the person dies intestate. If the deceased was married, assets usually pass to the surviving spouse and perhaps children and grandchildren. The spouse gets the first $300,000 of the estate and half of what is left, while the children get the other half divided equally among them. If the deceased did not have a spouse, his or her assets are divided amongst descendants equally. If there are no descendants either, assets go to the parents, then brothers and sisters if the parents are no longer living.

Who administers the estate?

A judge will appoint an executor to deal with the affairs of the deceased individual. There are people who can apply for that job — the first is the spouse if there is one, followed by relatives. If no one in the family is willing to take on task, a friend of the deceased could apply. Failing that, the Public Guardian and Trustee may become the official administrator of the estate.

The takeaway here is how important it is for Ontario residents to have wills and other estate planning documents in place to make things less stressful for family members when the time ultimately comes. All adults — especially those who have children — should have a will. It can allow an individual to have control over who gets what of their assets and a chance to indicate what one’s last wishes are regarding a funeral. Wills can also save a lot of time, stress and heartache for family members who are already grieving the loss of a loved one.

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