Can’t Find a Will? This Is What Happens.

Written by

Vanessa Roberts

What to do if there is no Will

It is important to note what happens to the deceased's assets when there is no Will. If there is no Will or the Will is not valid, the person is considered to have died “intestate.” This means there are no instructions the family can follow to distribute the estate. As a result, each province/territory has specific laws that deal with these situations. These laws determine who can be appointed to administer the estate and how the estate will be distributed to the next of kin. 

In addition, there is legislation that determines the distribution of estate assets when there are challenges from a spouse, former spouse, or dependents. You should seek legal counsel in these situations.  

Each province/territory has specific laws that determine what happens when there is no Will.

Provincial Intestate Laws 

These laws do not take into account the wishes of the family. More information on who can apply to administer the estate and how the estate must be distributed in each province can be found below:

If the deceased was a registered First Nations person living on reserve, the estate will be distributed according to rules set forth in the Indian Act.

What to Do Next

For instance, if a person dies without a Will or no named estate representative, you may need to apply for a grant of Letters of Administration before you can settle the estate. It may also be required if the person named as estate representative is unable or unwilling to act as estate representative. 

In these situations, someone should apply to the court using the appropriate application, which grants authorization to act as an estate representative. The estate representative appointed through the Letters of Administration process will have the same duties as an estate representative appointed in a Will. But the court must appoint them before they can begin carrying out their duties. 

Family members of deceased First Nations persons who lived on reserve should contact Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) to have an estate administrator appointed. 

Do I Need to Apply For Letters of Administration?

An application for a grant of Letters of Administration may be required in the following circumstances: 

  • If the estate contains real property (real estate, land, mineral rights, etc.) 
  • If the value of the estate is over approximately $25,000
  • If a financial institution wants proof of a person's legal authority to access money from the deceased's accounts
  • There is a dispute about who should administer the estate

However, a grant of Letters of Administration may not be required to deal with jointly owned property, assets with a named beneficiary or assets located outside the deceased's province of residence.