The Ontario government is enacting changes with the aim of making small estates easier and less costly to manage. This will likely come as good news to people who may be intimidated by the idea of being named executor to an estate, especially at a time when they may already be dealing with the grief associated with the death of a loved one.

A simplified process

The changes, which were introduced through the Smarter and Stronger Justice Act, aims to simplify the probate process for estates valued at less than $150,000. This includes the money, belongings, real estate, and other assets & liabilities left behind when someone dies. For those unaware, which can many people who have not gone through the probate process before, the term “probate” refers to the steps taken to validate a will, and confirm/establish the authority of the person named as trustee of the estate.

Until now, the probate process has been the same for all estates regardless of how much an estate is worth. The goal of these changes is to make it easier for people to file probate applications and access money from an estate worth less than 0,000. Ontario’s Attorney General Doug Downey said the goal of the changes is “To ease the burden on grieving loved ones and ensure fairness for everyone regardless of the size of an estate, the government is making the process to claim a small estate faster, easier and less costly for Ontarians.”

Changes go into effect in spring

The changes will go into effect on April 1 of this year. With COVID-19 changing the way that business is done across all industries, the probate process is no exception. The government has said that the changes will allow services to be delivered remotely, in-person, and online. In addition to making the probate process easier for individuals, it is also the government’s hope that strain will be lifted off of a justice system that has struggled to provide quick access to the courts during the best of times, never mind a global pandemic.
A quick summary of the simplified process for small estates includes:

  • allowing for the completion and filing of a new simpler application form;
  • removing requirements for certain supporting documents to be filed (for example, a commissioned affidavit of service); and,
  • guiding applicants on the process to file a probate application for a small estate.

Of course, as estate lawyers, we strongly suggest that no matter what size of an estate you may be tasked with managing, there are significant responsibilities that come with managing an estate, including personal legal and financial liability.

If you have been appointed an executor, it is critical to consult with an estates lawyer as soon as possible. It is likely that you have never acted in this capacity before and may not be aware of all of your obligations and responsibilities, including mandatory things that must be taken care of within certain time frames. . Call us at 416-847-3580 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.