Estate Planning

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Estate planning involves the transfer of someone's assets (e.g. property, money) when they die, as well as a variety of other personal matters. Wills, estates, trusts and power of attorney are all common tools used in estate planning. This section also contains information about family members who can't take care of themselves.

Wills, Estates and Trusts

What is a will?

A person's will is a written document that sets out the person's wishes about how his or her estate should be taken care of and distributed after death. It takes effect when the person dies.

What is an estate?

An estate is the property that a person owns or has a legal interest in. The term is often used to describe the assets and liabilities left by a person after death.

What is a trust?

A trust is created to hold property or assets for the benefit of a particular person called the beneficiary. It is managed by a person called a trustee, who has an obligation to deal with the property for the beneficiary of the trust. There are many different kinds of trusts.

My spouse has died. What does it mean to make an election under the Family Law Act?

In law, an election is a legal decision or choice. When a married spouse dies and has left a will, the surviving spouse can make an election to receive:

When a married spouse dies and there is no will, the surviving spouse can make an election to receive: A surviving spouse has six months from the date of the spouse’s death to make an election. If an election is not made within six months, the spouse will be granted his or her entitlement under the will, or under the Succession Law Reform Act if there is no will.

The election has important impacts on the rights of the surviving spouse. Surviving spouses should seek legal advice before making an election.

Learn more about property division following the death of a spouse.

How do I file an election under the Family Law Act?

If you decide to make an election (see question above), the election must be filed in-person or by mail with the Estate Registrar for Ontario within six months of the spouse’s death. To file an election, complete the form shown here and send to:

Estate Registrar for Ontario
c/o Toronto Estates Office
Superior Court of Justice
330 University Ave
Toronto ON M5G 1R7

If you have any questions about filing an election, please call the Estate Registrar for Ontario at 416-326-2940 or toronto.estates@jus.gov.on.ca. (Please note that elections may not be filed by email.)

How do I get a copy of someone's will after they die?

  • When an estate application with a will has been filed with the Superior Court of Justice, you can contact the court office and request a copy of the person's will. You will have to pay a fee to the court for the copy. More…

How do I apply for death benefits?

  • There are benefits from the federal government, which may be available to a surviving spouse and dependent children of a deceased person and to the deceased person's estate. More…

How do I find out about the status of my estate application?

  • Inquiries about the status of an estate application that has been filed with the Superior Court of Justice should be directed to the Superior Court of Justice location where the application was filed. More…

How do I calculate the amount of the estate administration tax?

  • The estate administration tax is calculated on the total value of the deceased's estate. It is sworn/affirmed to on the application for a certificate of appointment of estate trustee under "Value of Assets of Estate". More…

How do I prove I'm an heir (someone who inherits property) to an estate?

  • If someone dies without a will in Ontario and the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee is appointed by the Court as the estate trustee, any person claiming a share of the estate will have to prove they are entitled to inherit. More…

How is an estate distributed?

  • When a person dies with a will, the estate is distributed according to the directions in the will.
  • When a person dies without a valid will (intestate), Ontario's law on intestate succession requires a specific distribution of the estate. More…

How can I find out what happened to an estate of a family member?

  • You should first contact the Superior Court of Justice in the county where your relative lived at the time of his or her death, to see if someone was appointed estate trustee. More…

Where can I find court forms for estates proceedings?

  • You should contact a supplier of legal forms listed in the yellow pages. The forms can be viewed on the Rules for Civil Procedures Forms website, beginning with form 74.4. You will need to ensure that the form complies with the rules of court regarding format.

Why is the Office of the Children's Lawyer involved in an estate or trust matter?

  • The Children's Lawyer acts on behalf of persons under the age of 18 in various estates, trusts, guardianship and other matters.

Why is the Public Guardian and Trustee involved in an estate or trust matter?

Where can I find more information about estates?

Power of Attorney

What is a power of attorney?

  • A power of attorney is a legal document, often referred to as a "POA", that gives someone else the right to act on your behalf. More…

Why do I need a power of attorney?

  • Many people believe their families will be able to step in if something happens and they cannot make decisions for themselves. This isn't always true. More…

What is a power of attorney kit?

  • A power of attorney kit is a booklet containing forms for making power of attorney arrangements. By making powers of attorney, people can plan ahead to make sure their wishes are carried out.

Where can I get a power of attorney kit?

Are there different kinds of power of attorney?

  • Yes. In Ontario there are three kinds of Power of Attorney:
    1. Continuing Power of Attorney for Property
    2. Power of Attorney for Personal Care
    3. Non-continuing Power of Attorney for Property
  • More information on the types of power of attorney.

What if I don't want a power of attorney?

  • No one can make you sign a power of attorney if you don't want to. But, if you don't choose one, the government may have to appoint someone to make certain decisions for you if you become unable to make decisions yourself.
  • It's better if you choose someone you feel you can really trust, who knows your wishes.

Help for Incapable Family Members

What do I do if a family member is incapable of taking care of themselves?

  • Mental incapacity is when someone cannot understand relevant information or cannot appreciate what may happen as a result of decisions they make - or do not make - about their finances, health or personal care. More…

How does the law define mental incapacity?

  • The law defines mental incapacity as the inability to understand the information that is relevant to a decision or to appreciate the consequences of a decision. More…

I'm concerned about someone's well-being - what do I do?

What happens when someone is deemed incapable?

  • Information on how decisions are made on behalf of a person who has been deemed incapable of making decisions regarding their finances, property, or health. More…

What is a capacity assessor?

  • A capacity assessor is someone who determines, in certain circumstances, whether a person is mentally incapable of making decisions. More…

What is a power of attorney?

  • A Power of Attorney is a legal document that gives someone else the right to act on your behalf. More…

Why do I need a power of attorney?

  • Many people believe their families will be able to step in if something happens and they cannot make decisions for themselves. This isn't always true. More…

Are there different kinds of power of attorney?

  • Yes. In Ontario there are three kinds of Power of Attorney:
    • Continuing Power of Attorney for Property
    • Power of Attorney for Personal Care
    • Non-continuing Power of Attorney for Property
  • More information on the types of power of attorney.

What if I don't want a power of attorney?

  • No one can make you sign a power of attorney if you don't want to. But, if you don't choose one, the government may have to appoint someone to make certain decisions for you.
  • It's better if you choose someone you feel you can really trust, who knows your wishes.

Where can I get a power of attorney kit?

What is a living will?

  • The expression "living will" is sometimes used to refer to a document in which you write down what you want to happen if you become ill and can't communicate your wishes about treatment. More…

Is a "living will" the same thing as a "Power of Attorney"?

  • No. A Power of Attorney is a legal document in which you name a specific person to act on your behalf. A "living will" contains your treatment and personal care wishes and does not need to name anyone or be written in a certain way. More…

Where can I find out more about powers of attorney and living wills?

  • The Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee has created a set of frequently asked questions about powers of attorney and living wills. More…

Finding a Lawyer

How do I find a lawyer or a paralegal?

Laws and Regulations

Want to learn more about Ontario's laws and regulations?

  • e-Laws is a database of Ontario's statutes and regulations, both consolidated and source law. More…

Want to learn more about Canadian laws and regulations?

  • The Government of Canada's Justice Laws website is your online source for consolidated Acts and regulations of Canada. More…

Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII):

  • CanLII is a non-profit organization managed by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada. CanLII's goal is to make Canadian law accessible for free on the Internet. More…

General

Looking for Court addresses?

Library of Parliament

Visit our legal glossary for a basic guide to common legal terms.

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