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We're married. What happens to my partner's property if they die?
If you were married and not separated or divorced at the time your partner died, then what happens to your partner's property depends on whether they had a valid will.
A will is a written legal document that says who gets a person's property after that person dies.
To be valid, your partner must have followed certain rules when making their will. For example, the rules say that a will must usually be signed by the person making it and by two witnesses.
If your married partner had a valid will, you can choose to get either:
- what your partner left you in that will, or
- an equalization payment: an equalization payment is money one married partner pays to the other to divide the increase in the value of the couple’s property that happened during the marriage
If your married partner's will isn't valid or if they didn't make a will, you can choose to get either:
- your share based on legal rules, called "intestacy rules", that say who inherits property when there is no will
- an equalization payment: an equalization payment is money one married partner pays to the other to divide the increase in the value of the couple's property that happened during the marriage
If you and your partner owned any money or property jointly, you usually become the sole owner of it. For example, you usually get all the money in a joint bank account.
If you and your partner owned real estate together, what happens depends on how you own the property. You become the sole owner of any real estate that the two of you held in "joint tenancy". If the two of you held real estate as "tenants in common" then your partner's share of the property goes to their estate. Their estate is then divided according to their will or intestacy rules.
If you are listed as a "beneficiary" in an insurance policy or on investment papers, you also get that money.
Living in your home
As a married partner, you have the right to live in a matrimonial home located in Ontario without paying rent for at least 60 days after your partner's death. It might be less than 60 days if:
- There is a separation agreement that says you have less time.
- There is a court order that says you have less time.
- The matrimonial home is sold: But you have to agree to it being sold first.
- The lease ends during the 60 day period.
Your right to live in the matrimonial home means that you can't be locked out of the home even if your partner co-owned the home with someone else, or left the home to someone else in a valid will.
You may be able to live in your home for longer than 60 days if, for example:
- You own the home fully or partly with someone else.
- You and your partner had a domestic contract that gave you a longer right to live in the home.
- Your partner's will gives you a longer right to live in the home.
There are different rules that apply to a home on a First Nation reserve.