New Probate Procedure for Small Estates

On February 12, 2021, the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General filed regulations under the Estates Act and under the Courts of Justice Act amending the Rules of Civil Procedure in order to establish a simpler procedure to deal with the estates of deceased individuals with a value of up to $150,000, effective April 1, 2021.

The process to probate a Will in Ontario or to deal with the estate of an individual who died without a Will has been made faster and less formal in the case of estates with a value of less than $150,000. Such estates are referred to in the legislation as ‘small estates’.

As of April 1, 2021, an applicant (generally the executor named in a Will or, if there is no Will, a next of kin) who wishes to administer the small estate of a deceased Ontario resident may send an application for a small estate certificate and a copy of the Will, if any, to each person entitled to share in the distribution of the estate by email, regular mail, or courier. The application is a prescribed form. Once thirty days have elapsed after the application has been sent, the applicant may file a request to file an application for a small estate certificate together with a proof of death, a draft small estate certificate, and the original Will, if any, with proof of signing, at the court office in the jurisdiction where the deceased last resided. The applicable Estate Administration Tax (informally referred to as ‘probate fees’) must be paid when the application is filed unless an exception applies. The request to file an application will set out information about the deceased and include a detailed description of the assets of the estate. The court Registrar will process the application and, if granted, will issue a Small Estates Certificate. The Certificate will set out the specific estate assets which the applicant will then be entitled to administer.

There are more complex rules to be followed in certain situations, for example if any person entitled to share in the distribution of the estate is a minor, or if additional assets are discovered after the Certificate has been issued.

This article is not intended to serve as a comprehensive treatment of the topic and is not legal advice. All legal matters are dealt with pursuant to their specific facts and circumstance. Nothing replaces retaining a qualified, competent lawyer.