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What Happens if You Die Without a Will in Ontario?

Confirmation of Registration Report

They say nothing is certain in life but death and taxes. We pay taxes on a daily basis but often try to avoid the thought of death at all costs. Unfortunately, the cost to your loved ones if you do not plan for your estate in the event of your death can be abundant; and it may mean that your estate does not end up where you would have liked it to go.

If you are a Canadian without a valid will, you are not alone. A survey conducted in Canada by Google Consumer Surveys in June 2016 found that 74% of Canadians are living without a valid will. The provinces set out how your estate will be distributed if you die intestate (the legal term used when you die without a valid will).

What Happens if You Die Without a Will in Ontario?

In Ontario, if you die intestate, the Succession Law Reform Act determines how your estate is distributed.

If you are Legally Married

Your spouse has two options: 

The first $200,000 is given to your spouse if he or she decides to claim it, unless someone who is financially dependent on you makes a claim;


They can claim half of the net family property. 

An estate lawyer can help determine the best choice.  

Anything over $200,000 is shared between your spouse and your descendants (children, and grandchildren). 

If you are not Married with Children

Your children will inherit the estate, and if any of them have died, their children (your grandchildren) will inherit their share. 

If you are not Married without Children

Your parents will inherit the estate equally. If your parents are deceased, your siblings will inherit the estate equally. If any of them have died, their children, your nieces and/or nephews inherit their share. If all of your siblings have died, your nephews and nieces inherit the estate equally. However, if a niece or nephew has died, their share does not pass on to their children.

If an Heir Dies After You, but Before your Estate is Distributed

Their heirs are entitled to their share.

If you are Survived Only by Distant Relatives

This becomes much more complex and your distant relatives will have to speak to an estate lawyer. 

If you Have a Common Law Partner

When you die without a will in Ontario, only your blood relatives or legal spouse can inherit. This includes half-siblings, any children born outside the marriage, or legally adopted children. Half-siblings are entitled to equal shares with full siblings. 

Unfortunately, this precludes common law partners. Having a will is imperative for anyone – younger, older, married, or single – but it is especially important if you want to make sure that your common-law partner is taken care of.

Your common law partner may be able to make a dependency claim, or an “unjust enrichment” claim to successfully recover money from your estate, but both of those processes are costly and time consuming. 

Having a legal and updated will in place can save your surviving family time, money and heartache when the time comes. If you need help planning/drafting your will, the team at Levy Zavet PC can help.