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What Happens if you Die Without a Will? – By Owen Cromb

If a person dies intestate, it means they have died without a will. When this happens, the Succession Law Reform Act sets out how both your property and finances will be distributed to your living relatives.

Pursuant to the Succession Law Reform Act, if a person died intestate (after March 1, 2021) and the estate’s net value is less than or equal to $350,000.00, then their legally married spouse is entitled to the property absolutely. This does not apply automatically with common-law spouses.  If the deceased person has a legally married spouse and children, then the spouse receives a preferential share of the estate. If the date of death was before March 1, 2021 then this preferential share could be up to $200,000, if the date of death was after March 1, 2021, then this share could be up to $350,000. The residue of the estate after the preferential share is transferred to the legally married spouse is also divided differently depending on the amount of children one may have. For example, if the deceased person had a legally married spouse at the date of death and one child, the residue is then divided in half between the surviving spouse and the child. If there is more than one child, then 1/3 of the residue is given to the spouse and the remaining 2/3 is divided equally between all remaining children.

If the deceased had children but no spouse, then the children inherit equal portions of the estate. Though if one of the children has died, then that child’s share will pass to his or her issue.

If one dies and has no spouse or children then their estate will go to the deceased’s parents. If the deceased had no parents then their estate would pass to their siblings, then nieces and nephews who are related by blood, and then will pass to next of kin. The only case in which the government inherits your estate is if you have no living next of kin.

The administration of an estate can be a daunting and difficult task in the simplest of circumstances. When one dies without a will, costs can be drastically inflated due to the additional administration fees.  

The intricacies of settling of estates can become deeply personal when there are complex family dynamics involved.  Sometimes, the help of an Ontario estate lawyer may be required to bring resolution to the situation. Seeking legal advice can help you to understand what is fair and reasonable under the circumstances, while remaining sensitive to your situation.

If you have questions or need assistance in estate planning or estate administration, our team of experienced lawyers can help. Contact us online for a free consultation or call 705-526-1471 to speak directly to one of our lawyers.

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