Probate and Estate Administration


Being named the executor of an estate comes with significant responsibilities and equally significant personal legal and financial liability.

Executors owe a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries of the estate that they are tasked with administering. This means that, at all times, the executor must act with good faith and integrity, and must always make decisions that are in the best interest of the beneficiaries. Violations of this fiduciary duty (for instance, an executor acting in their own best interests) will attract personal liability and have serious financial and legal implications for the executor.

If you have been appointed an executor, it is critical to consult with a Toronto probate 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.

The Toronto estates lawyers at Derfel Estate Law regularly advise executors and assist them in carrying out their duties. We pride ourselves on providing our clients with personalized and transparent services. We take the time to thoroughly understand your specific concerns and desired outcome, and will craft an appropriate strategy with the goal of achieving that result.

Estate Administration in Ontario

Estate administration is the process of organizing and distributing the assets of an estate to the beneficiaries.  The executor is responsible for estate administration.

Where a valid will exists, the executor will distribute assets per the terms stipulated in the will. Where no valid will exists, the assets will be distributed based on “intestacy rules” under the Succession Law Reform Act, which lays out a strict hierarchy of who may be entitled to what.

Probate in Ontario 

Probate refers to the formal court process through which an executor’s authority to act on behalf of the deceased is confirmed.

Through probate, a court approves a testator’s will and formally confirms it as their last will and testament and, subsequently, appoints the individual who will act as the testator.

When Should Probate Take Place?

Probate is not required in every instance, and not every executor must go through the probate process.

Probate should take place where:

  • Court approval is needed to validate a will.
  • There is a dispute over who the executor should be.
  • Proof of an executor’s authority is required for a third party (e.g. a bank who needs to release funds, a land registry office who needs probate before land can be transferred from the deceased’s name into the name of someone else).

Probate Costs 

In Ontario, probate fees are $250 for the first $50,000 of the estate, and $15 for every $1000 thereafter (with no upper limit).

Where probate is required, probate fees are taken out of the estate before any assets are distributed to beneficiaries.

It is possible to significantly reduce, or even avoid, probate fees through guidance from a strategic and knowledgeable estates lawyer.

Derfel Estate Law: Advising Executors on Probate and Estate Administration

If you have been appointed an executor, the Toronto probate lawyers at Derfel Estate Law can advise and guide you on all aspects of estate administration, including determining whether or not probate is required, or assisting you if it is. Call us at 416-847-3580 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.