2021 has seen some big changes in wills and estates law in Ontario. Here’s what you need to know:

  • What does your spouse get when you die without a will?
    If a person dies after March 1st, 2021 without a will (i.e. intestate), the “spousal preferential share” has been increased from $200,000 to $350,000. This implies that the deceased’s spouse gets the first $350,000 of the estate before dividing the remainder with the deceased’s children.

    This is particularly significant for anyone whose children are from a previous marriage, as you may not want your current spouse to get such a large share of your estate. By making a Will, you can determine how much to leave to each family member.

  • Simpler rules for smaller estates
    With estates valued at $150,000 or less, the probate procedure has been simplified. Probate is a formal process that is often needed for people to properly mange the affairs and property of the deceased. The new simplified rules will make the process of obtaining probate much more economical for families and executors dealing with smaller estates.
  • Virtual witnessing
    Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, it was realized that Ontarians needed an option to be able to sign/witness Wills and Powers of Attorney virtually – previously, this had to be done in person in all cases. Temporary rules were introduced to deal with this during the pandemic, but those rules have now been made permanent. This change is particularly convenient if you are unable to meet in person with your lawyer.
  • Changes to the rights of spouses who are separated
    The right of a spouse to claim against the property of the other spouse who dies without a Will and from whom he/she is separated has now been abolished. This amendment will have particular implications for couples who have separated and not yet negotiated a separation agreement. Again it is preferable to make a Will so that you can determine exactly who should get what when you die.
  • Marriage no longer revokes a previous will
    Perhaps the most fundamental change in the recent suite of reforms is that getting married no longer automatically revokes existing Wills. This will protect your current beneficiaries should you marry – but can also cause problems if those beneficiaries ought to have been changed given the marriage. It is still a good idea to reconsider and update your estate planning either just before or just after marriage!

These new rules may have a significant impact on how your final affairs are managed. The last thing we want is to create conflict and complication for our loved ones when we are gone. So the moral of the story? Talk to a local Wills & Estates lawyer to make or update your will, and ensure your estate will be managed smoothly and in accordance with your wishes when you pass.

Need advice about making a Will or dealing with an estate?

A carefully prepared and properly executed will is among the most thoughtful gifts you can leave for your loved ones.

Speak to one of our Hamilton wills & estates lawyers today to get expert advice about your unique situation.