When an individual passes away, anyone close to that individual will rightfully wonder if they are a beneficiary under the will
We’ve all heard of stories where certain family members or friends refuse to provide information on whether or not there is a will, who the beneficiaries are under the will and/or what the estate assets are that will be distributed eventually. The reason for not providing information is usually on the misconception that one can holdback information about an estate from potential beneficiaries. Such is not the case.
Wills are private documents so they can be found in a safe, a file folder or a drawer at a deceased’s home rather than at a lawyer’s office. The original is needed to avoid any potential fraud associated with the will. There is a will registry run by the Vital Statistics branch of the provincial government but that registry simply notes that a will was prepared. The registry does not hold copies of the will. Often, a will is not registered especially if the will was drafted by the deceased or by a party other than a lawyer. Generally speaking, lawyers will register the will although there is a fee for doing so and some clients don’t want to spend the extra money to register the will.
If there is a will, the individual that’s named as the executor is supposed to apply for probate in a timely manner. If you’re a beneficiary or potential beneficiary under the will then you should be getting notice from the executor about the application for probate. If you don’t receive notice within a relatively short period of time after the death (a few months), there are a number of reasons for that including:
- There is no assets in the estate to be probated;
- The executor is slow moving;
- The executor is not interested in probating the will; and/or
- The will has not been found.
There are many situations where the assets of the deceased pass to others outside of probate and the will. This happens when real estate is owned in joint tenancy between the deceased and other individual(s). Also, if there is a right of survivorship or a named beneficiary on bank accounts, RRSPs, etc. then the money would pass automatically to the individual outside of the will. If there are joint bank accounts, the money automatically goes to the surviving account holder.
The executor may be slow-moving especially if he/she does not hire a lawyer to apply for probate. Also, some executors simply don’t want the hassle of applying for probate and doing all the necessary paperwork to wind up the estate, which paperwork can be daunting and tedious. There are timelines for probate to be completed but unfortunately, there is quite a few executors that get overwhelmed with the task and do not comply with the timelines under the various legislative enactments. A lawyer acting for you can definitely put on the pressure necessary to have the executor move in a timely manner and in some situations, look to remove the executor from probating the estate due to a conflict of interest, incompetence, slow movement, etc.
It’s very important to look long and hard to find the original will because applying for letters of administration without a will is more difficult and may not result in the estate assets being transferred to the appropriate parties according to the wishes of the deceased. Full effort must be shown to find the original will and if it’s not to be found, then one can apply for letters of administration without a will.
The problem with all of the above is it takes time and often individuals who believe they have been named as a beneficiary under the deceased’s will may be left hanging without much information in many cases.
Mussio Goodman offers an estate search service that will investigate if a relative or friend has provided for you under their will, and if so, the potential amount of the inheritance. The service includes searching the will registry, investigating the potential assets of the deceased and determining whether or not probate has been granted to wind up the estate.