Of all the legal processes that commonly take place when managing an estate, probate is one of the most important. Understanding it is a core part of successfully building and navigating an estate plan with your family.
What Is Probate?
Assuming a Will exists, probate is the process under which the court approves a Will as the last legal and binding Will for a deceased individual. With the grant of a probate, the executor has permission to administer the estate, which includes paying the debts of an estate and distributing its assets according to the will’s directives. For high net worth individuals, the probate process typically requires accounting, business valuation, appraisal, and legal expertise.
Professional fees for legal and accounting services, if required, vary with the complexity of the estate. Court fees vary by jurisdiction. In Alberta, the court fees for estates over $250,000 are capped at $525. At present this fee is insignificant, but for many families with assets in other provinces or in multiple jurisdictions, thorough estate planning is required to minimize the value of an estate subject to probate in order to minimize the probate fee (tax) payable to the government. Using Ontario as an example, probate fees are based, in part, on assets located within Ontario. Property valued at $2,000,000 will generate a probate fee in excess of $29,000.
Can It Be Avoided?
Probate can be an expensive and lengthy process. Not only this, but it turns the details of the will and the testator’s assets and finances into public record, which means that information regarding assets can be viewed by anyone inclined to search for a copy of the grant of probate at the courthouse. Trusts and the use of multiple Wills are among the many estate planning techniques that can be utilized to avoid the probate process and, where necessary, to minimize the taxes and professional fee associated with this process.The actual law for each region may differ and it is important to consult with a MacMillan Estate Planning advisor about your specific region. Do you have questions about probate that pertain to your particular circumstances or region? Our team of experienced estate planning specialists can help you and your family with anything you need regarding probate and more. Get in touch with us by calling 1-833-266-6464 today.