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When is Probate of a Will Required in Ontario?

In Ontario, it is trite law that an estate trustee of a testate estate derives his or her powers from the Will of the deceased.  Accordingly, unlike an intestate estate, it is not always necessary for an estate trustee to obtain a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee with a Will (“probate”)  in order to administer an estate.

However, in certain matters it is necessary for an estate trustee to obtain probate before being able to represent the estate, regardless of whether there is a valid Will.  The 2000 decision of Justice Haley in Carmichael Estate (re) succinctly sets out the three instances where probate is  required:

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  1. Third parties dealing with the executor may require probate in order to accept the authority of the Will. Justice Haley provides the example of a debtor who wishes to ensure that the proper person is being paid in order to satisfactorily discharge the debt.
  1. Proceedings where the executor represents the estate as plaintiff or as defendant. Here, Justice Haley notes that the Court will require probate in order to satisfy an evidentiary matter pursuant to section 49 of the Evidence Act.
  1. Where a foreign estate trustee intends to establish his rights in Ontario, letters probate must be resealed (referred to as ancillary letters probate).

In Re Carmichael Estate, the respondents sought to include a fourth category requiring probate – the removal of an executor under section 37(1) of the Trustee Act.  The Court held, however, that an applicant is free to bring a removal application regardless of whether probate has been granted and whether the estate trustee has acted in the administration.

Re Carmichael Estate a decision well worth reading for all history buffs given Justice Haley’s excellent historical analysis of the English common law Courts relating to probate and estates from the 11th century onwards.

Noah Weisberg