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Probate Process in Ontario

Probate Process in Ontario

Wills & Estates Law, Probate

Updated on 

Probate in Ontario is a legal process following an individual’s death. It involves court approval of the will and authorizing the executor(s) to distribute the estate according to the will’s directives. This article provides an overview of the process for legal professionals, executors and beneficiaries.

What is Probate?

What is Probate

Probate, also known as the Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee in Ontario, is a legal process involving getting a will validated by the court. This process authorizes the executor named in the will to manage the deceased’s estate. You must apply to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to start the process. The application also requires you to provide the deceased’s last will and testament, a detailed inventory of the estate’s assets, and other necessary documents.

The Certificate of Appointment confirms the validity of the will and the executor’s authority to distribute the estate’s assets according to the deceased’s wishes. The primary purpose of probate is to ensure that the interests of those entitled to the estate are protected, debts and taxes are paid, and any disputes that arise regarding the will’s validity or the distribution of assets are resolved through a formal mechanism.

Initiating the Probate Process If There is a Will

When there is a will present, administering an estate in Ontario involves several steps to ensure that the deceased’s assets are distributed according to their wishes in a legally recognized manner. This process, while complex, provides a pathway for executors to follow. Here’s an overview of the main steps involved when there is a will:

Step 1: Locating the Will

The first step in the process is locating the original will, which is essential for the probate application. The will specifies the executor, who is responsible for carrying out the instructions in the document.

Locating the Will

Step 2: Notifying Beneficiaries and Others

Ontario law requires that beneficiaries and other parties be notified of the probate application. This ensures transparency and allows any contests or claims against the will or estate to be brought forward.

Step 3: Applying for Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee with a Will

The executor in the will must apply for a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee with a Will (formerly known as probate) to be legally authorized to manage and distribute the estate’s assets. This involves submitting the original will, a death certificate, a detailed inventory of the deceased’s assets and liabilities, and the completed application forms to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. Estate Forms under Rule 74, 74.1 and 75 of the Rules of Civil Procedure are used in this process.

If your probate application is granted, you will receive a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee. This certificate gives the executor the power to manage the assets in the estate and pay off any debts owed by the estate. In simpler terms, they will be able to start distributing assets to the beneficiaries of the estate. If there are any issues, the court may review the application to determine next steps. If there is incomplete or incorrect information, you will have the opportunity to submit revised or additional materials.

Step 4: Valuing the Estate

The executor needs to accurately value the estate’s assets and liabilities as of the date of death. This valuation is essential for several reasons, including the calculation of estate administration tax and the equitable distribution of assets to beneficiaries.

Step 5: Pay Estate Administration Tax

Based on the total value of the estate’s assets, the executor must calculate and pay the estate administration tax to the Ontario Ministry of Finance. This payment is generally required at the time of submitting the probate application. To calculate the Estate Administration Tax, you can use the calculator here.

Estate ValueEstate Administration Tax
Under $50,000$0
Over $50,000$15 for every $1,000
Fees are valid as of February 2024, as per Ontario Estate Administration Tax Website.

Step 6: Pay Debts

Before distributing the estate’s assets, the Estate Trustee must ensure that all outstanding debts, including taxes and funeral expenses, are paid. This may involve selling assets to cover liabilities.

Step 7: Manage and Protect Estate Assets

While the probate application is being processed, the executor has a duty to manage and protect the estate’s assets. This may involve securing property, managing investments, and ensuring assets are properly managed.

Step 8: Distribute the Assets

Once the Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee with a Will is granted and all debts and taxes have been paid, the executor can proceed with the distribution of the estate assets according to the will’s instructions. This may also involve the sale of assets to facilitate distributions.

Step 9: Finalize the Estate

The final step involves preparing final accounts detailing all income received, expenses paid, and distributions made by the estate. These accounts may need to be passed by the beneficiaries or, in some cases, approved by the court.

Challenges and Considerations With a Will

  • Contests and Disputes: Wills can be contested, and disputes among beneficiaries can arise, potentially complicating the probate process.
  • Accuracy of the Will: Ensuring the will is the most recent version and accurately reflects the deceased’s wishes is crucial.
  • Professional Advice: Executors often seek legal and financial advice to navigate the complexities of estate administration, including tax implications and legal obligations.

The process of administering an estate with a will in Ontario is designed to ensure that the deceased’s wishes are respected and that beneficiaries receive their entitlements fairly and legally. Executors play a crucial role in this process, and their duties require careful attention to detail and adherence to legal requirements.

Initiating the Probate Process If There is no Will

When an individual dies without a will in Ontario, the estate is considered “intestate,” and the distribution of the estate’s assets is governed by the rules set out in the Succession Law Reform Act (SLRA). The process for administering an intestate estate is much more complex and involves several steps to ensure that the assets are distributed according to provincial laws. Since there is no will to name an executor, an interested party (usually a close relative of the deceased) must apply to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice for a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee Without a Will. This person, once appointed, functions similarly to an executor and is responsible for managing and distributing the estate’s assets.

Challenges and Considerations Without a Will

  • No Guidance: Without a will, there is no guidance from the deceased on how they wanted their assets distributed, leading to potential family disputes.
  • Legal Complexity: The process can be more legally complex and time-consuming, as the court must appoint an Estate Trustee, and the distribution follows statutory rules rather than personal wishes.
  • Potential for Increased Costs: The lack of a will may result in increased legal and administrative costs and a longer timeline to settle the estate.

The administration of an intestate estate in Ontario requires careful navigation of legal requirements and a thorough understanding of the SLRA. Individuals involved in such processes should seek legal counsel to ensure compliance with the law and help manage the complexities of estate administration without a will.


Probate in Ontario formally transfers assets from the deceased to beneficiaries according to the will. Seek legal advice to navigate this process efficiently and honour the wishes. Executors and beneficiaries must understand probate complexities for smooth estate administration and asset transition.

If you are an individual seeking legal assistance in probate due to your unique circumstances and needs, contact us today to find out how we can help.

The information provided above is of a general nature and should not be considered legal advice. Every transaction or circumstance is unique, and obtaining specific legal advice is necessary to address your particular requirements. Therefore, if you have any legal questions, it is recommended that you consult with a lawyer.

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