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What is Probate?

When you die, your Will gives legal authority to deal with your estate to your executor (estate trustee in Ontario, liquidator in Quebec). Although your executor is legally entitled to do so, when the time comes to redeem or transfer certain assets registered in your name (such as investments with financial institutions, publicly traded shares and, in some instances, real estate) probate is usually required.

Probate serves as proof to financial institutions, financial advisors and the land registry office that your Will has been certified by the court and that your executor is authorized to represent your estate. This process of obtaining court certification is known as probate.

Probate taxes have been in existence since 1358, when they were launched in England. In Canada, the first legislation dealing with this issue was enacted in 1793. In 1950 the legislation was amended and the tax was designated as a “service fee”. Although services provided are identical across the provinces (with the exception of Quebec), the cost varies under the laws of each province. Click here for Probate Fee Schedule.

Some provinces vary the terminology used in the probate process. Ontario now calls the cost of probate an “Estate Administration Tax” while other provinces call the cost of probate a “fee” or a “tax”. The actual grant of probate in Ontario is now known as a “Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee with a Will”.

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