Where do I pay probate fees?

Len’s will was prepared in Quebec, where most of his assets are located. Now he lives in Ontario. How will probate work?

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Q: My notarized will was drawn up and registered in Quebec and all of the assets (cash, RSPs, stocks, TSFA) are held in Quebec accounts. I now live in Ontario. If I die, does my will have to go to probate or does Quebec law, which exempts probate notarized wills from being registered, apply?

—Len

A: This is a great question, Len. The probate process may be required when someone dies so that a will is verified by the provincial government and the executor can be approved to take on their role and begin to distribute assets.

It is generally not important where a will is drawn up. A valid will may very well make no reference to the province in which it was drafted. Furthermore, contrary to what some people think, wills aren’t generally registered with the government. For the most part, they are private documents until they are probated, although some provinces do have an optional wills registry to try to help executors locate the most recent will prepared by the deceased.

On that basis, the fact that your will was done in Quebec or even registered there is not relevant, Len. What matters is the province where you live and the province where your assets are located.

Most people’s assets reside primarily or exclusively in the province in which they live. Presumably your home and car are in Ontario, for example. Your Quebec accounts are different.

In your case, your will would first be probated in Ontario due to your residency. All Ontario assets would be covered by this application. Secondly, your will would go through Quebec probate procedures—a process called “re-sealing.”

Probate fees would be payable based on the assets in each province. Ontario probate fees are high, starting at 0.5% on the first $50,000 and 1.5% on the excess. In Quebec, there are no probate fees for a notarial will and only $65 for a non-notarial will. Your estate would have legal fees in both provinces.

Not all wills must be probated. Assets that have beneficiary designations will generally bypass probate, as well as joint assets with rights of survivorship. Some estates have all assets passing via beneficiary designation or survivorship, so that probate is not required.

Reducing probate to the extent possible is a reasonable estate strategy. Unintentionally from the sounds of it, Len, having the majority of your assets in Quebec may significantly minimize your estate’s probate fees.

Ask a Planner: Leave your question for Jason Heath »

Jason Heath is a fee-only, advice-only Certified Financial Planner (CFP) at Objective Financial Partners Inc. in Toronto, Ontario. He does not sell any financial products whatsoever.


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