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Probate fees in Ontario

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Probate Fees in Ontario

 

I get many questions about probate fees at the estate planning seminars that I run at Toronto seniors’ residences. As an insurance broker and estate planning advisor I am quick to point out that I cannot give legal or accounting advice but I am able to educate people about the issues, recognise the red flags and direct people to seek additional advice when needed.

 

Planning one’s estate is important because it helps minimize fees and taxation and makes certain that your assets go to your family, friends or charitable organisation in accordance with your wishes thereby avoiding headaches and problems for those left to settle your estate.

 

There are several fees that come into play when settling one’s estate but it is probate fees that seems to get everyone excited. People seem to ignore legal fees and executor fees which together can dwarf probate fees.

 

Probate fees are calculated on the value of the estate. The first $50,000 is taxed at $250, the balance is taxed at 1.5%. Many estate lawyers will help calculate these fees and pay them on behalf of the estate.

 

For example a $500,000 estate could expect to approximately $7000 in probate fees. But the estate could also spend $10-$15,000 in legal fees and $25,000 in executor fees. Executor's compensation is based on provisions set out in provincial trustee legislation which generally is what is “fair and reasonable” – visit Executors Fee Guidelines for details

 

The trick to efficient estate planning is to by-pass the estate all together.

 

The most common way to by-pass the estate is to jointly register property and accounts with right of survivorship. This is common between spouses. Where it becomes tricky is when parents jointly register their property or accounts with children or other non-spouses. Expert advice should be sought prior to this change. Changing the ownership could result in unforeseen taxation or unneeded risk.

 

Naming a beneficiary is the next best way to by-pass one’s estate and avoid fees. Life insurance policies and RRSPs and RRIFs allow you to name a beneficiary. There are tax-implications that need to be understood when naming a person other than your spouse as the beneficiary of your registered accounts. Life insurance proceeds will pass to the named beneficiary tax-free.

 

Life insurance companies offer another great way to by-pass one’s estate and that is the use of Segregated Funds which are not available through mutual funds, banks or trust companies.

 

Segregated fund estate planning advantages:

 

  • The ability to designate beneficiaries allows GIC proceeds to by-pass probate, legal and other estate fees of death for both registered and non-registered accounts
  • On death, GIC proceeds and interest pass quickly, privately and directly to any named beneficiaries without charges
  • One can appoint a successor annuitant for non-registered account so that if the primary annuitant died the successor will automatically become the primary annuitant and the contract will continue with all term and interest rates intact

 

For example, if a person were to invest $250,000 in segregated funds to by-pass their estate the potential savings woulde be:


Estimated Executor fee @ 5%        $12,500
Probate fees @1.5%                       $3750
Estimated estate savings                $16,250

 

Segregated funds may also offer creditor protection under provincial insurance laws.  Segregated funds invested in the stock market offer guarantees to protect the principal in the event of market down-turns. The guarantees protect the principal in the event of death or upon the maturity of the contract. The contracts vary from a 75% gurantee on death or maturity to 100% gurantee on both death and maturity.

 

Segregated funds are a little known yet powerful tool for investors looking for investment guarantees and those wishing to reduce estate fees.

 

For more information download the following brochures:


Canada Life Estate Planning checklist
Manulife Investments GIC product guide
RBC Life Insurance - Using segregated funds to protect the value of your estate

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