Locating a Will after death can often be a challenge. Fortunately, the Law Society of Ontario (“LSO”) has resources that can assist with this task. The LSO maintains a resource page with advice on how to locate a Will. Some of the tips include:
- Contacting the lawyer or paralegal who may have prepared the Will directly. The LSO has a lawyer and paralegal directory that can assist by providing information about current lawyers and paralegals. (However, this route can only assist if the lawyer or paralegal who prepared the Will is known.)
- Search the court to see if the Will was deposited with the court. (However, experience tells us that very few Wills are deposited with the court.)
- Search Willcheck.ca or NoticeConnect to see if they have a record of the Will. The benefit of a search through NoticeConnect is that they can send a notice to their mailing list of lawyers and paralegals asking about knowledge of a particular Will.
- Contact the LSO. They may be able to assist in locating a Will prepared by a former lawyer or paralegal.
The LSO has prepared an infographic setting out steps that can be taken to locate a will.
As always, foresight is the best practice. After a Will has been drafted, it is always advisable for the testator to communicate with the named estate trustee(s) to advise them of the location of the Will. After all, there is little benefit to a careful estate plan if the Will cannot be readily located. Telling the estate trustee where this important document can be found can make the already difficult job of being an estate trustee a little easier.
Thanks for reading.
It is a scenario no one wants to contemplate, but there is a chance someone close to you could suddenly die due to an accident or natural causes. Here is some general guidance about what to do in that situation.
You can arrange a traditional funeral with the assistance of your local funeral home, where staff are experienced at guiding grieving families through the process. Alternatively, you can make all the arrangements yourself. For advice, consult the Bereavement Authority of Ontario’s Guide to Death Care in Ontario for general information when making arrangements. This informative guide covers all aspects of what happens after someone dies and is a good reference even for those who choose a traditional funeral.
One of the first choices you will have to make is how to handle the body: burial, cremation or alkaline hydrolysis (AH). With AH, a heated solution of water and potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide, along with pressure and agitation, reduces a body to components of liquid and bone. The resulting bone fragments are dried and reduced to a substance resembling cremated ashes.
The death must be registered by completing two documents. A Medical Certificate of Death completed by the attending doctor or a coroner outlines the cause. A Statement of Death must also be completed that details personal information about the deceased, such as family history, age at death and place of death. This is usually completed by the funeral director, in consultation with a family member.
The documents are submitted to the municipal clerk’s office, usually in the municipality where the death occurred.
You will need to get a burial permit in the municipality where you register the death. This permit is needed before funeral services can be performed, including cremation or AH.
If the death occurred outside Ontario but the burial will take place in the province, you will need a burial, transit or removal permit from the jurisdiction where the death occurred.
Another important document is a death certificate. The estate trustee will need this to settle the estate and to deal with government services. This certificate can be obtained online, with more information here.
You may already know if the person had a will, which in many cases bequests everything to the surviving spouse. If you do not know if there is a will, contact the estates division of the local Ontario court.
Private institutions – banks, insurance companies, pension funds – have to be contacted to inform them of the death, along with governmental organizations. If the deceased had been issued an accessible parking permit, you have 30 days to return that by mail to ServiceOntario.
If there is a provincial driver’s licence it must be cancelled. You can apply for a refund if there are six months or more remaining on the licence before it expires, as long as there are no outstanding fines. This can be done at any ServiceOntario centre.
Federal agencies must be contacted. That would include cancelling any benefit paid out through Old Age Security, Canada Pension Plan or Employment Insurance. Be sure to be in touch with the Canada Revenue Agency and provide them with the deceased’s social insurance number, so that any outstanding taxes can be paid or that any benefits can be transferred to a survivor. If the deceased owed money to the National Student Loans Service centre, that debt will be forgiven.
The executor of the estate is also responsible for filing an income tax form on behalf of the deceased person and contacting the Family Responsibility Office if the deceased paid child or spousal support.
The death of a loved one can be devastating, but the resources listed above should help you get through it.
Take care and have a great day.
Earlier this year, Ian M. Hull, Suzana Popovic-Montag, and I were pleased to co-author the Canada Chapter of the 2019 Chambers & Partners Global Private Wealth Guide for the third consecutive year.
The guide provides an overview of the law as it relates to a number of issues relevant to financial planning and estate planning in jurisdictions throughout the world. Specifically, the following topics are covered (among others):
- tax regimes;
- succession laws;
- laws relating to the transfer of digital assets and other assets;
- family business planning;
- wealth disputes;
- elder law; and
- obligations of fiduciaries.
With chapters summarizing the state of the law and related trends in 34 countries, including the United Kingdom, United States, Switzerland, France, and Israel, the guide can be a great resource to be used as a starting point when assisting clients who have assets (or are beneficiaries of assets) in other jurisdictions.
A complete electronic copy of the 2019 Chambers & Partners Global Private Wealth Guide is available here: https://practiceguides.chambers.com/practice-guides/private-wealth-2019. The online version includes a “compare locations” feature, which allows readers to quickly review differences between two or more jurisdictions.
Thank you for reading.