Estate planning: What happens when you die without a will?

Dec 12, 2017

If you do not have a will, and believe that you do not need a will, you are leaving your assets, money, and your family’s security on the table. You may believe that a will is unnecessary to your situation because your family will fairly distribute your assets, or that your assets aren’t large enough to warrant a will.

However, a will provides you with the ability to direct important choices, such as who will be the executor of your estate, who should be the guardian of your young children, and how your money should be divided. Without a will, if you have children you leave their financial security up to the ruling of the courts, and they are at risk of large legal fees and taxes.

With a will, you can be in total control of your estate and avoid many problems that arise for your family after your death.

How intestate affects how your assets are distributed  

If you die with a will, your estate will be distributed according to the directions you left within the document. If you die without a will (for which the legal term is intestate), a provincial statute will determine how your estate will be distributed.

The distribution guidelines are defined in the Ontario Succession Law Reform Act. Distribution of the first $200,000 of the estate’s assets go to the spouse. After the first $200,000 is distributed, the remaining assets are shared between the spouse and the children. The Act also outlines how an estate would be distributed in the absence of a spouse or children.

Your are giving up power over your assets

By not having a will, you are giving up a lot of power over your assets.

Things that will be out of your control:

  • Guardianship of your minor children
  • Financial security for your children
  • Funeral and burial arrangements
  • Choice in Executor
  • Choice in Powers of Attorney of Personal Care
  • Estate tax savings
  • Personal item distribution  
  • If you are in a common law relationship, financial security for your partner
  • Extra legal costs (lawyer and possible litigation)

Find an Estate Planning Lawyer

Make a secure decision for your family. Plan ahead and draft a will with the assistance of an estate planning lawyer.