What Does it Cost to Probate Wills in Ontario?

It happens after every weekend. On Mondays, my office gets calls from people asking about probate. It usually goes like this:

“I’m calling for a friend who is an executor. She wants to know how much you charge to probate an estate.”

Sometimes the friend is really the executor. You are nervous calling lawyers. I understand that. After a loved one has passed, you struggle with grief and worry. This is natural. We do our best to comfort and console executors.

Why I Must Read the Will

As a professional, I cannot quote fees over the phone. I must read the will. I must decide if it is valid before assessing what to do. I can’t give estimates without reading the will. These days, wills may contain many mistakes. These may require rectifications or to be studied to understand how a court could interpret the will.

The first thing I do is to check the will for problems. Tax problems are common. These can cause people to pay more taxes than they have to. Taxes can force executors to address issues right away.

So, how much does it cost to probate the will? I’m not dodging the question. My answer is “It depends.”

There is no right answer to this. Just like there is no right answer to the question how much does a car or a house cost, for that matter. So, “It depends” is the answer.

Hopefully, there are more assets than debts in the estate.

Executors Need to Know about Taxes

In most estates that are probated, two kinds of taxes are involved. These are major costs of probating an estate in Canada.

Ontario’s provincial estate administration taxes are probate taxes. These amount to roughly 1.5% of the assets controlled by wills. These costs need to be included in the probate costs.

Ontario collects this estate administration tax when a will is submitted to be certified by a court.

Executors file applications for estate certificates to confirm who is the executor under the will.

Executors also have to file an Estate Information Return (EIR). This form is due within 180 days from the date the estate court issues the estate certificate.

Federal Income Taxes

There are federal income taxes that must be paid. Executors must file returns and pay all income taxes.

In Canada, we do not have death taxes, per se, based on the overall size of the estate. Instead, some assets are treated as income and included in the deceased’s final tax return. For example, a person’s RRIF is treated as income and taxed in a person’s final tax return.

Questions Lawyers Need to Ask Executors 

Fees depend on various factors including:

  • Was the will prepared by a lawyer?
  • Are the witnesses to the will available to sign documents?
  • Did someone write on the will?
  • Do you have the original of the will?  
  • Is the will handwritten, signed and dated? Or without witnesses?
  • Is it likely the will is going to be challenged in court?

There are many steps involved in applying to probate wills. Probate allows courts to certify the deceased’s last will. You then receive a certificate of appointment as estate trustee with (or without) a will.

Fees may not be the only issue to consider when you hire an estate lawyer.

For most people, having an experienced estate lawyer is important to avoid costly mistakes. I have over 40 years’ experience and am a Law Society Certified Specialist in Estates and Trusts Law.

I offer a 45-minute face-to-face consultation in my office. There is no obligation if you do not accept my recommendation.

You can find details on my website here for your appointment. Because of COVID-19, we can arrange a conference call to explain how I can provide probate relief.

Don’t forget to pick up a copy of my free report Start Your Ontario Executor Journey Here.