FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TORONTO, November 19, 2015 — The Law Commission of Ontario (LCO) today releases its final report in its Simplified Procedures for Small Estates project.
This project was motivated by a concern that the probate system may be disproportionately costly for small estates so that, in some cases, small estates are effectively shut out of the system. Probate is a court process that validates a deceased’s will (where there is one) and establishes or confirms the legal authority of the applicant to administer the estate. Many people think of probate primarily as a vehicle for the collection of estate administration tax. However, probate also provides important legal protection to the testator, beneficiaries, creditors and the estate representative. In this project the LCO considered ways in which the probate system may be simplified and made less costly for small estates so that its benefits are accessible to all estates regardless of value.
After extensive research and consultations, the LCO recommends that Ontario create a small estates process for estates valued up to $50,000. This would be designed to be much simpler to navigate without legal assistance but would continue to be supervised by the court and would retain other essential legal protections. The report also recommends a range of legal supports as part of a small estates procedure that could be tailored to the value and relative complexity of particular estates. The report concludes that the ease and affordability of this recommended process should bring many more small estates within the protection of the probate system. It should also have broader commercial benefits for Ontario in standardizing the practices around asset transfers after death. According to LCO Board Chair Bruce Elman, “The goal of this project was to design a more accessible procedure without eroding the protections that are the underlying purpose of probate. The recommendations, taken together, strike a careful balance between these two goals.”
Launched in September 2007, the LCO is funded by the Law Foundation of Ontario, the Ministry of the Attorney General, Osgoode Hall Law School and the Law Society of Upper Canada, and is also supported by Ontario’s law schools. It receives funding and in-kind assistance from York University. Housed in the Ignat Kaneff Building, home of Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, the LCO operates independently of government to recommend law reforms to enhance access to justice.
Sue Gratton, Research Lawyer
Law Commission of Ontario