The LCO expects to address a number of issues in this project. These include:
- Possible eligibility requirements for a simplified small estates procedure, including:
– The relationship between small value estates and simple estates taking into account that only relatively simple estates are likely to be suitable for a small estates procedure;
– Definition of “small” estate keeping in mind the relative and variable concept of “small” and other analogous definitions in Ontario law;
– The types of assets (such as real property for example) that should or should not be eligible for a small estate procedure;
– Circumstances in which a small estates process may be inappropriate such as, for example, where a beneficiary lacks capacity.
- The relationship between Ontario’s probate system and other laws and policies that provide for the release of assets after death without probate.
- The need for estate representatives to access financial information in order to complete the application for a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee (COA) and the countervailing concern for confidentiality.
- The impact on small value estates of the Canada Revenue Agency requirement that a COA be obtained in order to file the deceased’s final tax return.
- The jurisdictional relationship between the province exempting certain estates from the full COA process and federal regimes relying on the COA process as proof of legal authority to act on behalf of a deceased person.
- The optimal role for the Public Guardian & Trustee, if any, in facilitating small value estate administration.
- Possible attributes of a small estates process, including:
– Dispensing with some of the current requirements for obtaining a COA while ensuring that the protective function of probate is retained;
– The implementation and accessibility of a small estates process including possible public education initiatives and online tools;
– The role, if any, for legal assistance in navigating a small estates process.
- The potential impact of Ontario’s new audit and verification regime on a small estates process.
- The possible tax implications of a small estates process that avoids probate (and, therefore, the estate administration tax).
- If the LCO concludes that the current COA process remains necessary to protect estates of any value from fraud, other possible ways to improve the current process for small value estates.