What Are Your Rights as the Beneficiary of a Will in Ontario?
Emotions are high when somebody close to you passes away — and rightfully so. It’s an extremely trying time. You may face planning a funeral, letting loved ones know, providing comfort to those around you, and finding your own time to mourn on top of everything else.
If somebody close to you passes away, you may also find yourself named as a beneficiary in their Will, meaning you will receive some of their estate.
Finding this out can often leave those left behind with questions. What are your rights as the beneficiary of a Will in Ontario? When was the Will executed? And what even is a beneficiary?
This article will answer all your questions about your rights as a beneficiary of a Will in Ontario (and more) to make the process as smooth as possible.
What is a Beneficiary of a Will?
A beneficiary is a person who receives money, items, or other inheritance from someone who has passed away. The Will-maker will have created their Will before their death and included names of individuals and charities that they wished to receive something from the estate.
Who Can Be a Beneficiary in a Will?
A beneficiary doesn’t always necessarily mean a spouse or a child of the deceased —Will-makers can include people outside of that immediate circle. Some examples of beneficiaries of your Will include:
A partner or spouse
Other family members, like cousins, aunts and uncles, or nieces and nephews
Charities or nonprofits
What Are Your “Rights” as the Beneficiary of a Will in Ontario?
So now that you know the basics of what a beneficiary is, it’s time to review your rights.
Before getting into this, it’s important to note that a beneficiary technically does not have any rights. They can expect that the executor (the person appointed to administer the Will) will perform their duties, and they can take legal action to force them to do so if it comes to that.
But what does that expectation entail? Let’s review.
1. Be Notified of Probate
You have a right to be notified when the estate executor applies to court for a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee, sometimes referred to as “applying for probate”. Probate is the process where the court confirms that the Will is truly the valid Will of the deceased.
2. Receive A Copy of the Will
Believe it or not, sitting down for a reading of the Will is not as common as movies and television make it seem. You are, however, entitled to a copy of portions of the Will relevant to you. It is up to the executor to provide this.
3. Be Treated Equally to Other Beneficiaries
There are typically numerous beneficiaries as part of a Will, and you have the right to be treated equally and fairly to the others named. One beneficiary should not be receiving preferential treatment over another.
Note that this does not mean beneficiaries are entitled to the same inheritance from the Will. This will change between beneficiaries.
4. Request the Executor be Removed
One of your rights as a beneficiary is to ask for the removal of the chosen executor, if you believe that the executor is not acting in the best interest of the estate. So if you believe you’re being treated unfairly, this is an option you could explore.
It’s important to note that this is the right to request the executor be removed — it does not mean they are guaranteed to be removed. The court will have to get involved and review the situation to determine if the executor should be removed. If you’re considering making this request, ensure there genuinely is a breach of obligations, and not just a disagreement with what has been actioned.
5. Receive Estate Entitlement in Reasonable Amount of Time
As a beneficiary, you have a right to receive your estate entitlement in a reasonable amount of time.
But how long is this reasonable amount of time? Truthfully, it varies. There is a rule of thumb called the “executor’s rule”, that assumes that executors have a year to fulfill their duties to the estate. This goes by the average estate, however a more complicated estate can oftentimes take longer than a year.
Remember, it’s always best to consult with a professional if you’re concerned about your rights as a beneficiary being violated. They have the industry experience required to navigate the situation to ensure a timely and fair resolution for all parties is reached.
Final Thoughts on Your Rights as a Beneficiary
Knowing what you’re entitled to as a beneficiary is an important part of going through the Will process. But when your loved one appoints a trustworthy executor, it makes the process a whole lot easier.
If you want to get started on choosing beneficiaries for your own Will (or just start learning more about the process!), please reach out to us.