When acting as a prospective estate trustee in Ontario, it is often necessary to apply to the court for a certificate of appointment of estate trustee. Although it is commonly referred to as “probate”, the certificate of appointment is essentially a validation of a will or, in a scenario where no will exists, an authorization for the estate trustee to manage and distribute the estate of a deceased person.
This certificate may be required in circumstances where the deceased owned real estate or held assets in accounts for which various offices and institutions require the court’s validation. In fact, most financial institutions or land registry offices want to be certain of the appointment in order to avoid being wrapped up in any litigation in the event that money or assets are transferred to the wrong parties.
The application for probate also involves the payment of estate administration tax, or as commonly known as “probate tax” under the Estate Administration Tax Act. The amount payable for this tax depends on the size of the estate and the current tax rates are as follows:
- For an estate valued less than $1,000, there will be no probate tax payable.
- For an estate valued up to $50,000, the rate is $5 for each $1000 or part thereof.
- For an estate valued at over $50,000, the rate is $250 (for the first $50,000) plus $15 for each $1000 or part thereof.
For example, an estate with a value of $240,000 will be required to pay $3,100 in estimated estate administration tax. A larger estate of $1,000,000 will attract $14,500 in estate administration tax.
For estate administration tax calculations, the total value of the deceased’s estate may include assets such as:
- Bank accounts
- Investments (bonds, trust units, stocks, etc.)
- Vehicles and vessels
- Real estate in Ontario (net of encumbrances such as mortgages)
- Insurance proceeds (where proceeds pass through the estate)
- All other property including business interests, goods, intangibles, etc.
There are some assets which flow outside the estate such as those which are held jointly or, pass by way of beneficiary designations. When considering estate planning, a number of steps may be taken to reduce probate fees payable. However, some of these options present other risks which need to be carefully assessed.
Along with the above, there are very onerous requirements placed on an estate trustee to not only manage and distribute the estate, but also to file a detailed estate information return to the Ministry of Finance within 90 days of obtaining probate. It is important to consult a professional to help you with estate planning or, administration services, to ensure you limit your exposure to potential liability. Should you require any assistance or, other estate related services, we would be glad to assist you.
Please note the above serves as general information and not legal advice and is not intended to be relied on as such.