What to Expect When Someone You Love Dies
Disclaimer: This article on losing a loved one and estate law in Ontario is intended for the purposes of providing information only and is to be used only for the purposes of guidance. This article is not intended to be relied upon as the giving of legal advice and does not purport to be exhaustive.
Dealing with the death of a loved one is difficult, and if you are going through that, we extend our condolences. While you are bearing your grief, you may also have to understand the legalities of what comes next.
We believe in providing our readers with comprehensive and understandable information, so in this article, we will provide an overview of what to expect when a loved one dies in various circumstances. Of course, your situation will be unique, and we encourage you to discuss the specifics with our team.
What to Expect When There is No Will
The first thing you want to do when your loved one passes away is to locate their will. But what if the deceased had never prepared a will?
In estate law, if the deceased did not have a will, they are said to have died intestate. This means that their assets will be distributed according to the provisions set out in the Succession Law Reform Act.
If a person dies with a spouse and no children, then their spouse inherits the entire estate. However, if there are children, the spouse inherits the first $200,000, with the remainder split equally. (NOTE: When a married person dies without a will, the surviving spouse can claim either:
- half of the net family property (as per the Family Law Act); or
- claim their entitlement under the Succession Law Reform Act.)
If there are children, but no spouse, then the children divide the estate equally.
The division of an estate can get much more complicated when there is no spouse or children. In that instance, it will go to the parents. In the absence of parents, it will go to any siblings (with nieces and nephews receiving their parent’s share if that sibling has passed away.)
From there, the courts divide the estate amongst grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and so on. If no relatives can be located, the estate will go to the Crown.
You must probate the estate and there will be considerable expenses in doing so. This highlights the importance of having an estate plan in place and updating that estate plan on a regular basis as your life changes.
What to Expect As the Executor
As we have previously noted, the first thing you want to do when your loved one passes away is to locate their will. If they had a will, then they would have likely named an executor in that document. In the event that they have not, you can apply to the courts
The role of the executor is to settle the estate according to the instructions set out in the will. It also includes dealing with any debts and liabilities that the deceased may have had.
If there is no will, then the role of the executor is to follow the intestacy rules as set out in the Succession Law Reform Act.
The role of executor can be a daunting one. As we have noted, it is a significant responsibility and one that requires much of your time and energy. There is a reason that lawyers commonly call it the “executor’s year”. This is not something that takes mere weeks or months.
Of course, you do not have to do it alone. Surrounding yourself with sound advice from experienced professionals means that you will be able to navigate this process with greater confidence.
What to Expect As a Beneficiary
If you are named as a beneficiary in someone’s will, you can expect to receive your inheritance as soon as the executor can release it. Again, this is not something that happens overnight and it may move slower than you had thought.
The role of the executor is to pay all debts and liabilities of the deceased before any assets are distributed. This could include funeral expenses, taxes, and so on.
Once the executor has paid any debts, he or she will then move to distribute the assets according to the instructions set out in the will, withholding some of the estate to account for any further taxes levied by the CRA.
As a beneficiary, you do not have much say in how the estate is distributed or how long it takes for you to receive your share. This is all up to the executor. However, if you feel that the executor is not fulfilling their duties or if there is some issue with the will itself, then you can seek a remedy from the courts.
You also have the right to be informed about the status of the estate, such as when the executor applies for probate.
What to Expect: Compassionate Legal Advice During Your Most Difficult Period
At times, the death of a loved one can be sudden and unexpected. Other times, it may be the culmination of a long and difficult battle with illness. No matter the circumstances, losing someone you love is always going to be a difficult experience.
The last thing you want to deal with during this already tough period is managing complex estate law issues. Fortunately, you don’t have to go through this process alone. The team at Beeskma Law has extensive experience helping executors settle wills and estates, as well as helping you to set up an estate plan before you need it.
We understand that this is a difficult and emotional time for you and we will compassionately guide you through every step of the process. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.