Applying for Probate
Listen to Applying for Probate
This week on Hull on Estate and Succession Planning, Ian and Suzana talk about the applying for probate. They discuss some of the ways that estate administrators can simplify the process.
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Applying for Probate – Hull on Estate and Succession Planning Podcast #105
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Hi and welcome to Hull on Estate and Succession Planning. You’re listening to Episode #105 of our podcast on Tuesday, March 25th, 2008.
Welcome to Hull on Estate and Succession Planning, a series of podcasts hosted by
Ian Hull and Suzana Popovic-Montag, that will provide information and insights into estate planning in Canada, from the offices of Hull Estate Mediation in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Here are Ian and Suzana.
Ian Hull: Hi Suzana.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Hi there Ian. How are you today?
Ian Hull: Just great, thanks. Glad to be podcasting again with you. Missed you last week.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Sorry about that.
Ian Hull: No it’s – these things happen.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: They do.
Ian Hull: Don’t forget to all those who are listening, feel free to call us at 206-457-1985.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Or if you’d like to drop us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or, of course, you can visit our blog at estatelaw.hullandhull.com.
Ian Hull: Okay, we’ve been trying to follow through the process of an estate administration per se, and what it takes to get the job. One of the things that we talked a little bit about, not at the last podcast but the one before, was the application for probate itself. And I thought what we could do today is, sort of, talk about some of the things that might come as a surprise to people just how much notice you have to give to the beneficiaries. And just who needs to be given notice in the application process and some of the other, sort of, what I might consider more mundane steps you have to take in the process. We talked, not in the last podcast but the one before though, about the bonding requirements in Ontario anyway, the probate tax that gets calculated.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: And we didn’t mention the fact though, Ian, that when you don’t necessarily know the exact value of the estate and you can’t necessarily calculate the administration tax that will be payable, you can still file on the basis of an estimated value for the estate, as long as you provide an undertaking that our statute here in Ontario provides for.
Ian Hull: That’s right. It gives us some flexibility and so it means that you don’t have to know the numbers right down to the dollar.
Alright one of the next things that I think of whenever I’m applying for probate is I think of the Affidavit of Execution. And that’s because you need it, it is such a vital document. I mean, when you’re dealing with an estate, to administer an estate, you have to have a valid Will and you have to prove that it was properly executed with two witnesses in the room at the same time as the deceased. So the Affidavit of Execution is something you want to track down and sometimes that’s not as easy as it sounds.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: And that Affidavit, for people who aren’t familiar with it, is an Affidavit by those witnesses to the Will saying that they were actually present for the signing of the Will and that all the formalities required by the legislation were abided by.
Ian Hull: And some difficulties can arise because, for example, say the Will was done 20 years ago and you don’t have any real information about the Will and the Affidavit wasn’t signed at the time, you can get into some trouble with the Affidavit of Execution in the sense of trying to track it down. So I always remind my clients whenever they do sign their Will up, make sure that they have asked their lawyer where the Affidavit of Execution is and make sure it’s in a secure place, because it is a vital part of the application itself.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: That’s for sure, Ian. And then once you’ve got all this documentation in place and this information all put together, then what you’ll typically do is actually meet with the lawyer and have the documentation signed up.
Ian Hull: Now in Ontario, and I think it’s a useful exercise to go through because when you do this for the first time, I find people are often surprised at just what needs to be involved in an application for probate. Now let’s talk a little bit about some of the people that get notice of the application itself.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: And that basically is all of the beneficiaries who are named in the Will. And so if you’ve got a beneficiary who’s actually a charity, in that instance, you have to serve not only the charity itself but also possibly the Public Guardian and Trustee as well.
Ian Hull: And people forget that when you have made a gift of a charity, what you’ve done is you’ve created a new layer of bureaucracy in the probate process and in the accounting process, if the gift is part of the residue, and we’ll get into more of that later. But the point is, is that it’s wonderful to give to charities in the Will but I notice in the last 10 years certainly, the taxing authorities in Canada have started to encourage us to gift during your lifetime. You get better tax advantages than you used to for that gifting and, quite frankly, on death, the gift to a charity can be a bit cumbersome. It’s not overwhelming, but it’s just another layer in the process.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: And another government institution that you serve with this notice of application, if you have minors who are beneficiaries of an estate, is the Children’s Lawyer’s office here in Ontario. And that is, again, if you’ve got a minor who’s a beneficiary of an estate, you’ll serve the Children’s Lawyer on their behalf, as well as the parents of the minor.
Ian Hull: So we can’t forget, too, because a lot of these Wills will have what we call is a gift-over provision and they will have a situation where there may be a trust or something of that nature, and so there are minor beneficiaries’ interests that need to be protected. And the governing authority gets a copy of it, opens a file and then is in a position to audit your administration, so to speak. So you put them on notice of the Will and you put them on notice of the financial interests.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: And if you have beneficiaries who are actually not capable, whether if mentally or otherwise, you may have to also, in those circumstances, serve their guardian of property or their attorney for property, if they’ve got one that you are aware of.
Ian Hull: That’s a really good point because sometimes people overlook that aspect of the administration.
Now the final step, of course, is to go up to the Court and file the application itself, and that can be done by your lawyer or it can be done by yourself, it depends in your circumstances. So let’s just take a minute now and we’ve filed for the application, we’ve covered off and maybe been a bit surprised at who all knows about the information. And I say that because, in Ontario anyway, we’re required to say and provide a copy of the Will to the individual who’s a beneficiary. But we’re not necessarily required to put the amount of the estate. You actually file an Affidavit of Execution with the Court and you also file an Affidavit verifying the amount of the assets when you file in Ontario, so that it’s a public document, but it is not necessarily produced in this first series of disclosure steps. So it’s one of those things that I often will say to my clients “Look, you know what, it’s a public record. Maybe you want to go up to the Court, get a copy of the Affidavit that they file in support because in it will tell you the value of the estate and you might get some answers very quickly as to what’s going on.”
Alright, so we’ve got our Certificate of Appointment and now what do we do? This is the document we’ve all been waiting for, so to speak, and we are in a position now to start to show it to third parties to start to meaningfully administer the estate and get access to certain aspects of the assets that we haven’t been – we’ve been prevented from getting until we got this famous probate document.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: And so one of the first things that my clients will normally want is to have a couple of copies, notarial copies, you know, our Court of approval or seal of approval on that document, indicating that it is a valid probate document that they can then take and use with the authorities who actually require it, in order to help them collect and administer the assets of the estate.
Ian Hull: And that lets you get into various… gets access to various assets. It’s like getting into a safety deposit box, for example.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: And also closing out bank accounts as well.
Ian Hull: And we talked about in other podcasts and the problem is, is that the banks and third parties will not necessarily deal with you as executor without this formal order. And banks are classics for that and the brokerage companies are classics for that because they want to know that they’re dealing with the right person before they start to release the funds to the estate bank account. Often the bank will also insist on probate before they’ll even open an estate account. So that’s case by case, but that’s something that, you know, as I say, it’s great to have the document now, get lots of notarial copies of it, use them properly and you’re in a position to start to really meaningfully administer the assets.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: And that’s particularly important when you’re trying to collect life insurance policies which typically are in large denominations. And so you’ve now got that Certificate that you can give to the institutions in order to be able to get those funds.
Ian Hull: Another one asset that we sometimes run into glitches on is RRSPs, here in Canada, and again, with our probate documentation, we can usually complete that transfer fairly quickly.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: As part and parcel of that, too, just other kinds of securities where you have to provide the transfer agents with proof of the fact that you’ve got authority to deal with those assets. And again, you’ve now got it in hand and you can give that to them in order to collect those assets as well.
Ian Hull: And, of course, one of the fundamental assets that you have to concern yourself with is the transfer of real estate. And with many different jurisdictions, it is mixed in terms of whether or not you need probate or not. But I would say, sort of, as a good general rule, probate is almost always required. And so now we can start to transfer and sell real estate.
Okay, now one little twist that some people don’t often think of the beauty of probate and before we get into some of this, what I will call some of the other action items that you can take the steps on with the probate document, are things like dealing with personal affects. And for our next podcast, I want to start to…we’ll talk a little bit about not just personal affects but automobiles, talk about other assets that we can now start to administer with the document in hand, that being probate, and with authority that we’ve been waiting for.
So thanks so much Suzana. Good to have you back and we look forward to our next podcast.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Thanks to you, too, Ian. And just a reminder to our listeners, that we’ve got our comment line set up at 206-457-1985.
You’ve been listening to Hull on Estate and Succession Planning with Ian Hull and Suzana Popovic-Montag. The podcast you have been listening to has been provided as an information service. It is a summary of current legal issues in estates and estate planning. It is not legal advice and you are reminded to always talk with a legal professional regarding your specific circumstances.
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