This blog was written by Justin Ecclestone, Estate and Trust Consultant with Scotia Wealth Management
The Multiple Wills strategy in Ontario often comes to mind when providing estate planning advice to successful business owners with private company shares. When speaking with business owners the benefit of the strategy is quite clear – save probate fees. It is important not to overlook this strategy for those without a business as it may be of benefit to them as well. We do run into clients now and again with a vast array of artwork or a large classic car collection and, of course, the strategy will apply here as well. That said, it may not always be so obvious.
As someone who appreciates a good narrative, let’s look at a fictitious case where the multiple wills strategy may apply without a private corporation or a large collection of personal effects. Jane Smith, age 85 years old, has a beautiful cottage property in the Kawarthas region of Ontario Cottage country and a sizeable investment account. At first glance, the use of multiple wills may not be an obvious option to consider. That said, it may be worth considering if the First Dealings Exemption can be applied to the cottage real estate.
Generally speaking, the Estate Trustee will be required to seek a Probate Certificate to deal with real property. It is possible that the property remains in the Land Registry System or that it has not had its first dealing in the Land Titles System (First Dealings Exemption). Under these two scenarios, the Probate Certificate is not required to transfer title. Let’s go back to Jane now. Say her property in the Kawartha’s is valued at $5,000,000. Jane would certainly be interested to save roughly $75,000 in probate fees if the probate certificate was not required.
What’s the Point? – If Jane is unaware that the property will be eligible for First Dealing’s and does not pursue a secondary will to address the real estate, it will be dealt with under the Primary (only one will). Although the property was eligible, Jane’s estate trustee will be required to seek a Probate Certificate to transfer the investment accounts and the real estate will be included in the application.
Where the exemption may apply, it certainly makes sense to explore the use of multiple wills (amongst other strategies of course) to ensure these probate fee savings can be realized. Multiple wills? For more than just business owners.