What happens if I don't have a will?

Some people think there is no point in making a Will. “My spouse gets everything anyway” is a common refrain. But there are two problems with this reasoning:


  • If you don’t own all your property jointly with your spouse, he or she may have to make a long and costly application to get it transferred
  • Your spouse may die before you do. So what will happen to your property when you die?

If you don’t have a Will, guess who decides who gets your property? The government.


Most provinces have rules about what happens to a person’s estate when he or she dies without a Will. In Ontario, for instance, if a man dies without a Will, the first $200,000 of his estate goes to his married spouse (not including common-law spouses). The balance of the estate is shared among his spouse and children (depending on the number of children).


So imagine this scenario:


A man dies without a Will, leaving a spouse and two children, and an estate worth $500,000.


  • His spouse will receive only $300,000 ($200,000 + 1/3 of balance).
  • If his children are minors, their share will be held in trust until they reach adulthood

But what if the man wanted all of his estate to go to his spouse?


If he had prepared a Will, he could have left everything to his wife. She would then have been able to use all of the money to raise the children.
This is only one of many example where a simple Will could have helped tremendously.
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