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I'm married. What happens if I die without a will?

I'm married. What happens if I die without a will?
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Community Advocacy & Legal Centre (CALC)
HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario (HALCO)
Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General

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I'm married. What happens if I die without a will?
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March 1, 2021
Wills Guided Pathway
Wills Guided Pathway

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If you die without a will, Ontario law has rules about what happens to the property in your estate. These are called the intestacy rules.

Under the intestacy rules, who gets your property depends on whether you're married or not married, and how many children you have.

The intestacy rules say only a legally married spouse and biological and adopted children have a right to your property. The intestacy rules do not give anything to a common-law partner, or stepchildren you haven't legally adopted.

Are you legally married?

Do you have children?

What the intestacy rules say



Your estate goes to your spouse. This includes a spouse you're separated from but have not divorced.



If your estate is worth less than $350,000, your spouse gets everything. If your estate is worth more than $350,000, your spouse gets the first $350,000. The rest is divided between your spouse and children.



Your children share your estate equally.



Your estate goes to your living closest relatives. If you have no relatives, your estate goes to the Ontario government.

If you're married when you die, the intestacy rules say that after all funeral expenses, taxes, and debts are paid, your spouse gets the first $350,000 of your estate. This is called the "preferential share". If there's anything left after that, it's shared by your spouse and any biological and adopted children.

On March 1, 2021, the amount of the preferential share increased from $200,000 to $350,000. This increase only applies to the estates of those who die intestate on or after March 1, 2021. For those who died intestate before March 1, 2021, the preferential share is $200,000.

Your spouse can decide whether they want to take what they are entitled to under the intestacy rules. Or, they can choose to get an equalization payment. The question "We're married. What happens to my partner's property if they die?" explains what an equalization payment is and how it is calculated.

Estate Trustee

The person who deals with your estate after you die is called an estate trustee. They are also called executors, estate representatives, personal representatives, estate administrators, or liquidators.

If you die without a will or don't name an estate trustee in your will, someone has to apply to the court to be appointed as your estate trustee.

This process can cost a lot of money and take a lot of time. Nothing can happen with your estate until an estate trustee is appointed. This means your debts can't be paid and your beneficiaries can't get anything.

Once the court approves an estate trustee, they distribute the property in your estate according to the intestacy rules.

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