What is a will and what happens if I die without making one?

1. Learn what happens to your property if you die without a will

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

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 and biological and adopted children have a right to your property.

Are you legally married? Do you have children? What the intestacy rules say
Yes No Your estate goes to your spouse. This includes a spouse you're separated from but not divorced.
Yes Yes 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.
No Yes Your children share your estate equally.
No No Your estate goes to your living closest relatives. If you have no relatives, your estate goes to the Ontario government.
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 people who died without a will on or after March 1, 2021. For people who died without a will before March 1, 2021, the preferential share is $200,000.

The intestacy rules do not give anything to a , or stepchildren you haven't legally adopted. But be aware that they might be able to go to court and make a dependant’s support claim against your estate. A dependant is a person you were supporting financially before you died or a person the law says you must support.

So, if you want to leave property to someone who is not your married spouse, or biological or adopted child, you should make a will. For example, you should make a will if you want to leave property to:

  • a common-law spouse
  • a stepchild
  • other family members like a grandchild, niece, or nephew
  • non-relatives like a friend or neighbour
  • organizations such as charities
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