In Ontario, what happens if a spouse dies without will?

2 answers | Last updated: May 03, 2017
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In Ontario, what happens if a spouse dies without will?

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

What happens to the property the spouse owned at death depends upon who is left surviving. The property is then distributed according to a specific hierarchy set out in a law called the Succession Law Reform Act.

Bear with me until you get to your family situation. Under the law:

  • If the only survivor is a spouse, he or she gets all the property.
  • If a spouse and one child survive, the spouse gets the first $200,000 worth of property; any remaining property is split equally between the spouse and child.
  • If a spouse and two or more children survive, the spouse gets the first $200,000 plus one-third of the property that remains; the children split the other two-thirds equally.
  • If no spouse, but one or more children survive, the children share the property equally; if any one of the children has died before the parent, that share goes to any children he or she has.
  • If there is no spouse and no children, but grandchildren survive, those grandkids all are entitled to equal shares of the property.

If none of these scenarios fit, the law requires that the property must be distributed in equal shares to surviving parents, or if none to brothers and sisters, then to surviving nieces and nephews, then to next of kin -- and finally, if there are no such survivors, the property goes to the Crown.

It is because this law often conflicts with how a person would have intended their property to be distributed that many people are inspired to make a will setting out their wishes before dying.

Community Answers

Geo2015 answered...

This is a well laid out article. For me, the manner in which assets are dispersed to the surviving spouse, and children, or spouse alone, etc, etc is fair enough, and logical. But I have seen a lot of estates, and a lot of heirs complain about this way of distributing inheritance property and cash. I guess you can’t please everyone all the time. Some people just want it all, and don’t want to share. Most interestingly, frequently, heirs that seem to be unhappy with estate distribution, I guess to make themselves feel better compensated, will submit an inheritance cash advance, probate advance, or probate loans applications to a number of online probate loan, trust fund advance companies that provide inheritance loans… loans on inheritance, inheritance loans in advance, and loans against inheritance from known inheritance loan companies like, or maybe the firm, or perhaps I suppose this sort of fast cash windfall can often serve as a reliable way to get up to date more quickly on bills and other debts… For heirs that are unhappy with their distribution and feel they should be getting wealthier form their inheritance, I suppose this kind of fast cash assignment gives them the sense that they are doing something about that. Although most people heirs that get loans on inheritance, are doing it to address emergencies or other urgent financial needs. And I imagine when those heirs receive the rest of their inheritance they aren’t confronted with as high an amount of debt as they otherwise would be.