Recently, the Province of Ontario made it possible for estates valued at less than $150,000 to go through a simpler procedure than a larger estate would have to go through. This is a massive change, and can potentially improve access to justice for small estates in Ontario. It’s yet to be seen how the Ministry of the Attorney General’s Court Services Division will handle this procedurally, and what the new forms and timelines will look like exactly, but we should know more as we get closer to the Province’s start date for the program on April 1, 2021.
As big as those changes are, there are some right across the horizon that are even bigger, coming to us in the form of Bill 245 of the Ontario Legislature, which which was introduced by the Ministry of the Attorney General. The bill has only been through first reading so there may still be some modifications by the time we get to the final product, but as it stands, the changes to estates law in Ontario are expected to be as follows:
- VIRTUAL WITNESSING TO SURVIVE COVID-19: The temporary COVID-19 rules allowing for the virtual witnessing of wills and powers of attorney will be made permanent.
- MARRIAGE AFTER WILL EXECUTED WON’T REVOKE THE WILL: Wills shall no longer be automatically revoked upon marriage.
- SEPARATION MAY REVOKE GIFTS TO SPOUSE: If someone passes away having left a will, gifts and appointments in that will to a separated spouse, under certain circumstances, will now be treated as void and unenforceable. If someone passes away without a will, gifts and appointments to a separated spouse will not be applicable under certain circumstances.
- IMPROPERLY SIGNED WILLS MAY NOT BE AUTOMATICALLY INVALID: Wills that are not valid because of improper execution or witnessing can be treated as valid upon application to the Superior Court of Justice.
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