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What Is Probate?

Although different provinces have slightly different rules, probate is basically the court process that ensures your wishes, as outlined in your will, are carried out. This includes the distribution of your assets – like property and investments. But many people don't want their families to go through the public and, many times, lengthy probate process. 

If you understand how probate works in your province, you can put estate strategies in place to potentially avoid probate. Your advisor can work with you, your lawyer and your tax professional to determine what may work best for your situation.

What Happens?

Generally, an executor, with the assistance of a lawyer, submits a last will and testament to the probate court, which starts the process to:

  • Notify beneficiaries and creditors. This is done to ensure that everyone who might have an interest in the estate knows about the court proceedings.
  • Formally appoint an executor or personal representative, who is usually named in the will.
  • Review and inventory assets and debts.
  • Continue management of property and pay any outstanding debts.
  • Prepare final tax returns and complete other record keeping.
  • Make final distributions to beneficiaries.

It's important to remember that every province has different rules and processes for probate. Talk to your lawyer to learn more about how probate may look where you live.

Are There Any Assets That Don't Need to Go Through Probate?

Some types of property (sometimes called non-probate assets) pass automatically to specific beneficiaries without a court’s involvement. For example, if you name beneficiaries on assets including Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs), Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs), insurance policies and annuities, they won't have to go through probate. In addition, assets that are titled in certain ways (like "joint with right of survivorship") don't need to go through probate since they pass directly to the other joint owner.

Are There Disadvantages of Probate?

The probate process is intended to help provide some oversight on how your estate is handled after your death. But with that oversight come some potential disadvantages, including:

  • Probate is public - The court proceedings are public record, and in many cases, a notice to creditors is done through a public medium, like the local newspaper.
  • Probate can be costly and time-consuming - Depending on where you live, probate fees can be up to 1.5% of the estate's value, which does not include legal and other professional fees. And because it's a legal proceeding, provincial law determines how long this process may take.

How we can help

No matter what your estate includes, we believe it's important to understand how your assets will be passed down to your beneficiaries. This includes gaining a high-level understanding of the probate process. With your team of legal and tax professionals, Your Edward Jones Advisor  can answer questions you have to make informed decisions regarding your estate strategy.

Important Information:

Edward Jones, its employees and financial advisors are not estate planners and cannot provide tax or legal advice. You should consult your estate-planning attorney or qualified tax advisor regarding your situation.

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