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What is probate?

In simple terms, probate is the process of legally validating a will and processing it through court. Probating a will is not necessarily mandatory in Canada, and there can be significant costs to have it done. Given that, you may wonder why it’s worth doing. Here’s what probate does and why it may be beneficial.

Confirms the executor

A will’s executor bears a lot of responsibility, and probate can make their task a bit easier by legally confirming their authority. It officially grants them the power to deal with third parties such as banks, brokers, insurers, and others, a vital responsibility for an executor.

Many financial institutions will require probate before releasing assets to the executor. It releases them from any liability if the will is challenged.

Reduces chance of disputes

Once a will is successfully probated, a disgruntled party — someone excluded from the will or unhappy with their gift — has a tougher time contesting or invalidating the will.

Probate can also establish time limits in which someone can contest the will or make claims against the estate.

Easier land transfers

If the estate includes property owned solely by the testator, a land transfer office will generally require probate in order to transfer that property to a beneficiary.

Avoiding probate

Typically, there are two reasons you may want to avoid probate.

Loss of privacy: once probated, a will becomes a public document, searchable to anyone interested. This includes the value of your estate and your beneficiaries.

Cost: depending on where you live, probating a will can be an expensive process

How much does it cost?

Probate fees vary enormously depending the province and the size of the estate.

In B.C., it’s free for an estate valued at under $25,000.

In Quebec, it’s a flat $202 ($202 for a “legal person,” such as a business or organization).

Alberta charges $25 for estates worth less than $10,000 and the cost increases according to estate value, to a maximum fee of $525 for an estate worth $250,000 or more.

Ontario, B.C., New Brunswick, and other provinces use a more complicated formula of charging a dollar amount or percentage according to the overall value. In Ontario for example, it costs $5 for each $1,000 of the estate’s value under $50,000. Over $50,000, it costs $15 for each $1,000.  An estate valued at $100,000 will cost $1,000 in probate fees; $200,000 would cost $2,500.

Provinces using this formula often charge a flat fee (or no fee) for smaller estates.

Of course, there are additional fees it if you hire a lawyer to assist with probate.

The necessity of probating a will depends on what’s in the estate and the laws in your province or territory. Probate can be complicated, so seek legal advice to help navigate the process.

Read more:

The probate court of New Brunswick 

Quebec: Probate of a Will by the Court