What Happens If You Die Without Having a Will?

If you die without having a will in Ontario, Canada, your estate will be distributed according to the Wills and Succession Act. Keep reading to find out what this Act entails and how your estate´s distribution is decided.

Having a will is important to clarify your wishes and asset distribution upon your passing. This article discusses Ontario asset distribution as well as the types of wills available and why you should consider creating your own.


Ontario Wills and Succession Act

More than half of Canadians do not have a will, which means that over 50% of Canadian estates need direction in terms of how to distribute the assets of the deceased in question.

Those who die without a will die “intestate”. This means that the government is responsible for appointing an executor to distribute both your assets and debts. Canadian law typically distributes assets to the next of kin through provincial laws. In Ontario, this gave birth to the Wills and Succession Act.


Order of Distribution

If you are from Ontario and do not have a will, the Wills and Succession Act states that your assets will be distributed in the following order:

  1. If you are married with no children, your spouse receives your entire estate.
  2. If you are married with children, your spouse receives the first $200,000, and the remainder of your estate is divided equally between the children and the spouse.
  3. If you aren´t married but have children, your estate is divided equally among your children. If any of your children have passed away, their children – your grandchildren – get the deceased child´s share.
  4. If you aren´t married and do not have children nor grandchildren, your estate is divided equally between your parents. If only one parent is alive, they get your entire estate.
  5. If you don´t have surviving parents, your siblings will get your estate. If you don´t have surviving siblings, their children – your nieces and nephews – get your deceased sibling´s share.


Important Aspects of a Will

The primary purpose of a will is to clearly define who will receive your assets after your death. Your will can also state which individual will take over as guardian for minor children.

Specific assets that you should include in your will for distribution include:

  • Property/real estate
  • Prized possessions
  • Bank balances
  • Your business and business assets
  • Investments
  • Cars

Omissions of assets include things like life insurance payouts, as the policy should have its own designated beneficiaries stated outside of the will; however, if a life insurance policy does not have a designated beneficiary, or if the policyholder outlives their beneficiaries, the death benefit of their insurance plan would then be paid out to the estate.

After paying respective fees and taxes, the death benefit would be passed along to the beneficiaries of a will, if there is one.


Validating Your Will

According to the Ontario Wills and Succession Act, for a will to be valid it needs to:

  1. Be made in writing, Click here, to learn more about how to write a will.
  2. Contain the signature of the testator (person making the will) by their own free will
  3. Be either a formal, holograph, or military will

Next, we will look at the three types of wills mentioned in previous point #3.


Types of Wills

The three types of wills legally accepted in Ontario include formal, holograph, and military wills. Each will should be a physical copy to be deemed legal in Canada.


Formal Wills

A formal will is signed by the testator in front of two witnesses who are present at the same moment. Each of the witnesses will also sign the will in the testator´s presence. Witnesses shall not be beneficiaries or executors to the testator´s will.


Holograph Wills

Holograph wills are written by the testator in their handwriting. They will then sign this document without the formal presence or signature of a witness or any other formality.


Military Wills

A member of the Canadian Forces can create their own will while on active service by signing it without the signature or presence of a witness or any other formality.


Repercussions of Dying Without a Will

You´ve already read about how your assets will be distributed through the Wills and Succession Act if you do not have a legalized will in place; however, there are additional repercussions for dying without a will in place.

  • A headache for loved ones: Most people don´t realize how much time, effort, and stress go into estate distribution when no will is left behind. Questions that need to be resolved in legal settings include how you want your property distributed, what type of funeral you´d like, and what you want to occur with your body after death.
  • A court-appointed administrator of your estate: Without a will, you will receive a court-appointed administrator to distribute your estate. This person will have no familial ties with your nor your family, making it difficult for them to anticipate what your wishes would have been.
  • A court-appointed guardian for your children: The court may appoint a guardian for any minor children left behind who is closest to the deceased by blood. This may not be the person you would have chosen to look after your children should you pass away.
  • Lack of control over your asset distribution: The Wills and Succession Act may resemble your idea for asset distribution upon your death, or it may be completely different. Avoid your assets being distributed to estranged family members or those you do not have a relationship with – create your own will as soon as possible.


Take Back Your Power Today

To take back control over your assets and estate´s future, begin planning your official will today. Investments and insurance professional Sim Gakhar is well-rounded in planning for uncertain futures, including taking care of your loved ones and estate once you´re gone.

Reach out to her for suggestions on how to get your will formally legalized. Begin creating your will now and – remember – the best plan for the future begins today.


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