A Guide for Lawyers and Families
If you die without a will in Ontario and the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee has been appointed by the Court as
the estate trustee, any person claiming a share of your estate
will have to establish they are entitled to inherit. In this
case, the final duty of the Public Guardian and Trustee is to
distribute the net estate to the lawful heirs under the law of
Ontario. In determining the rights of anyone to share in the
estate of a deceased person without a will, the effective date is
the date of death of the deceased.
Requirements for Compensation Agreements Signed On or After January 14, 2010
Details on these requirements can be found here.
How an Estate is Distributed
Since 1978, Ontario law states that the estate of an intestate
deceased person is distributed as follows:
- To the spouse, if living, the first $200,000 (effective
April 1, 1995);
- To the spouse and children, the excess over $200,000 shared
according to specific rules;
- If no spouse, to the children and descendants of the
deceased, if any;
- To the parents of the deceased if no spouse or
- If no surviving parents, to brothers and sisters, and
children of the deceased brothers and sisters;
- If no brothers and sisters, then to living nieces and
- When more remote relatives are involved, special
instructions may apply.
NOTE: Half-blood relatives share equally with whole-blood
relatives. Children include those born outside marriage and
How to Prove You are an Heir (Beneficiary)
Here's what the Public Guardian and Trustee needs to prove
you're an heir. Evidence submitted must include at least two
sworn statements or affidavits. The first statement must be made
by a person claiming a share of the estate (called the claimant).
The second corroborates the first and is made by someone who has
personal knowledge of the family history, but no monetary
interest in the estate. If this second person is not a resident
of Ontario, a third sworn statement must be obtained from an
Ontario resident who knew the deceased, stating his/her knowledge
of the deceased's reputation as to marital status and the
existence of children born inside or outside marriage or
The sworn statement of the claimant should include:
- The name of the deceased, date and place of death, last
residence and occupation and other known identifying
- The name of the surviving spouse, if any, the date and
place of marriage with the marriage certificate attached.
Similar details are required for all marriages of the deceased
and spouse or former spouses. Specify if one marriage only is
- If there is a surviving spouse, a statement that the spouse
is living, that the marriage had not been dissolved prior to
the death, and that there is no existing separation agreement
depriving the spouse of a right to share in the estate.
- If more than one marriage for either spouse is involved,
the relevant information must be supplied and official
documents produced to establish the dissolution of the former
marriage or marriages by court decree or death.
- The names of all naturally born or adopted children,
specifying that they are all the children born to or adopted by
the deceased, and further specifying that none were adopted out
of the parent-child relationship with the deceased by any other
person or persons. Birth certificates and adoption orders
showing parentage must be produced. If there are no children,
the affidavit must include this information.
- Deaths must be stated and corroborated by certificates.
Changes of name due to marriage must be identified and
supported by marriage certificates.
- If the deceased was not born in Canada, the claimant should
state when the deceased came to Canada. Also, if a claimant is
a subject of a country other than Canada, the claimant must
establish his/her national status.
When claimants are anyone other than a spouse and children,
there must be statements to the effect that there is no one in
the degree of spouse, child, parent, etc., and the deaths of the
spouse, children and parents must be stated in the affidavit and
supported by certificates.
- Children include those born outside marriage and adopted
children, but not those adopted out of the family.
- Certificates required to prove heirship must be "long-form"
certificates. For example, birth certificates would show the
names of parents. If such certificates can't be obtained, a
statement of your searches and inquiries and results achieved
should be included in the material submitted. If the Public
Guardian and Trustee's office is satisfied that it's impossible
to obtain such certificates, it may accept secondary evidence
such as entries in family bibles, Parish records, copies of
tombstone inscriptions, or census records properly
- Where affidavits, court testimony, or certificates are
prepared outside of Canada in a language other than English or
French, they must be translated into English. A sworn statement
of the translator in English setting out his/her qualifications
to translate and stating the translation is true and correct
must be attached.
- The signatures and seals on all original affidavits or
Court testimony must be authenticated in the country where the
material is prepared, and then vised (a special certification)
by the British or Canadian Embassy where the documents were
prepared. Outside the British Commonwealth if documents are not
completed in a British or Canadian Embassy, the truth of
written statements must be affirmed in the presence of a
notary. The certification must be translated into English or
French by a qualified translator as above. Within the British
Commonwealth, affidavits and statutory declarations taken
before a commissioner for affidavits are acceptable.
- The Public Guardian and Trustee reserves the right to
require additional evidence.
- All documents submitted to the Public Guardian and Trustee
will become the sole property of the Office Public Guardian and
Trustee and will not be returned.
How to Find an Estate Trustee
You may be wondering what has happened to the estate of a
First, check with the Ontario Court (General Division) nearest
the place where your relative lived at the time of his or her
death, to see if someone was appointed estate trustee. (This used
to be called either an administrator or executor, depending on
whether a will was probated.) There may be a small fee involved
in doing a search, or you could hire a local lawyer to do the
search for you.
If you find that the OPGT has been appointed by the court to
administer the estate, contact our Estates and Corporations unit.
Have all the information on your relative handy. Please also read
our requirements to prove that you are an heir. (How to prove you
are an heir) This tells you what you need to do to prove your
claim. Keep in mind that you must prove that you (and perhaps
others) are the closest eligible next-of-kin to the deceased
If no one has been appointed as estate trustee, you may have
the right to do so yourself. This will make it easier for you to
get information from Revenue Canada, banks and other institutions
which may be holding money for the deceased.
If the estate was administered by someone, and you were
entitled to a share but the estate trustee could not find you,
the money could have been paid to the Accountant of the Ontario
Court, to be held until you or your next-of-kin claimed it.
For More Information
If you need more details, contact:
Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee,
Estates and Corporations,
595 Bay St., Suite 800,
Toronto, Ontario, M5G 2M6
weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.,
Telephone: (416) 314-2800
TDD: (416) 314-2687
Fax: (416) 314-2781
The Public Guardian and Trustee is not responsible
for any costs incurred by any person who claims to be an heir to
the deceased. Claimants must bear their own costs.