What are probate fees and can I reduce them?

Probate fees, also called estate administration tax, are fees that are paid to the Ontario government. The amount of the fee is based on the total value of the property in your when you die. The less property you have in your estate when you die, the lower your probate fees.

In Ontario, probate fees are $15 for every $1,000 of over $50,000.

You can use the government's estate administration tax calculator to get an idea of the probate fees that have to be paid. The fee is paid from the estate.

Reducing probate fees

Your estate is the property you own when you die. This includes in Ontario, such as land and buildings. It also includes personal property, such as jewellery, furniture, investments, and bank accounts.

There are ways to deal with your property that can reduce your probate fees. For example, you can:

  • give gifts to people and organizations while you're alive
  • have a   on investments such as a life insurance policy, benefits plan, and registered plans such as registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs) or tax-free savings accounts (TFSAs)
  • own property with someone else jointly

These assets don't form part of your estate when you die and are not included when calculating probate fees. They “pass outside the will”. This means they are not affected by your will or the .

Alter ego trusts and joint partner trusts are other ways to reduce probate fees. These are more complicated to set up and usually need legal help.

Get legal help

An estates lawyer can give you advice on the best way to deal with your property and reduce probate fees.

If you have a low income, you may be able to get help from the Queen’s University Elder Law Clinic. You can also call your local community legal clinic to see if they help with wills. If you have a simple estate, there are services such as Axess Law, that offer legal services at lower rates.

See here for a list of legal clinics that help with wills and Powers of Attorney.

If you have a large or complicated estate, it might be a good idea to talk to a financial advisor as well an estates lawyer.

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