Thursday, January 31, 2013

Obtaining the Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee (Probate) in Ontario


So, you’re named the Estate Trustee in your widowed mother’s Will. What do you do?

First of all, be aware, you will hear the word “probate” over and over. It drives me crazy when lawyers, bankers and realtors, say, accusingly, “haven’t you probated the Will yet?” They should know better: it’s been almost 20 years since we changed from “probate” to “Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee” in Ontario.

Nevertheless, your Google search for “probate in Ontario” will be just as effective, if not more so, as searching “administering an estate in Ontario”.

Is a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee necessary?

If there is real estate or significant monies in investments you will most likely be obliged to obtain a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee, aka “probate”, before you will be able to deal with these assets of the estate. The Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee (probate) is a document issued by the Ontario Court in the district where the deceased resided. It certifies the death of the person and confirms the appointment of the estate trustee named in the last Will. 

How do I apply for the Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee?

The Application comprises a number of Court forms. The forms are readily available online. At a minimum you will have to file the following:


1. Affidavit of Service of Notice of An Application For A Certificate Of Appointment Of Estate Trustee With A Will

A form document entitled Notice of An Application For A Certificate Of Appointment Of Estate Trustee With A Will is sent, by mail, to every beneficiary in the Will with a copy of the Will attached. Once the Notice has been mailed to each beneficiary, the Affidavit of Service can be executed. A copy of the Notice, as mailed is attached as an Exhibit. Someone authorized to take oaths must notarize both the Affidavit and the Exhibit.


2. Application for Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee with a Will

This document sets out the details of the deceased, the Estate Trustee and the estate. It must be notarized. Ideally, a reasonably accurate monetary valuation of the estate is required as Court fees (probate tax) are paid when the application is filed based on the value of the estate as set out in the Application. It is a bit of a catch 22 because without the Certificate of Appointment some assets cannot be sold and so their value can only be estimated. Note, payment of the fees can be postponed if further documents are filed.


3. Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee with a Will

This document is a draft of the Order that the Court will issue appointing the Estate Trustee.


4. Original of the Will and a copy


5. Original Affidavit of Execution of the Will


Some Final Caveats

The forms should be filed in exactly as presented. The clerks at the Court are not equipped to determine the validity of forms that differ from the norm and routinely reject them.  It may seem like a simple thing, but obtaining the Certificate is a daunting task; heavy on procedure and finicky paperwork. You would be wise to employ a lawyer to advise and assist you with the application.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Little Bit About Me -- Personally

The Early Years

I was born in Accra, Ghana to an Officer in the Canadian Army and his British wife. I have no recollection of living there but I think those were some of the best days of my father’s life. Some day I hope to go back there with him. After a childhood of biannual moves throughout Canada and overseas postings to Rome, Italy and Lahr, Germany, my parents were posted to Oslo, Norway and I ended up in school in the tiny town of Clevedon, England. Those were some of the worst days of my life; it was an all girls boarding school and I was sixteen years old! But the holidays in Oslo more than made up for it.

On the bright side, after a year of intense study, I was accepted into the Business Administration program at the University of New Brunswick at the tender age of seventeen. Four years later I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and knocked around Fredericton, New Brunswick for a couple of years until I managed to get into Law School. Along the way I met a wonderful boy who would become my husband and the father of my two children.

I live in Ottawa, the capital of Canada. I own a big old (circa 1860) house; there is a timber barn and a stone ice house on the property. I have two cats.

Things I Like

I like to travel. One of my favourite trips was in the summer of 1989 when my husband and I crossed into the “East” at Check Point Charlie and made our way by train from Berlin to Budapest. That was the summer that the cold war ended, all hell was breaking lose in the eastern block countries and we were in the thick of it. We saw the lineups at the US embassy in Prague but little did we know until we got to Budapest and were able to read about it in the English papers. I’ve been back to Berlin twice, on business, and while unification is wonderful, I will never forget the days I spend in East Berlin.

Another fantastic trip was in the summer of 2007 when we went to Chile and Peru; Chile for skiing/snowboarding and Peru for the Amazon and the Gringo (aka Bingo) trail (they play Bingo on the buses). It was an awesome five weeks of family fun.

I like to read. I am a voracious reader with very few scruples; I’ll read almost anything. My favourite genre is the spy novel (hence Check Point Charlie above) which I was introduced to in an English course at University – the literature of fear and suspense. Oddly, I do not belong to a book club but I do belong to a movie club. While at University I was a projectionist and have always loved the big screen.

I like to bake – cakes, cookies, squares, breads. I don’t like to cook.

I snowboard (I used to ski) and play Ultimate Frisbee. Every summer we do at least one canoe camping trip – we used to do up to ten days, lately it’s just been four/five day trips.

Friday, January 11, 2013

A Little Bit About Me -- Professionally

My Practice: From Trade-mark Law to Wills

I haven’t always been practicing estate planning—before my current practice, I worked in trade-mark law.

I was twenty-three years old when I started law school. At the cost of aging myself, I wanted to be Joyce Davenport (the public defender on Hill Street Blues – does anybody remember that show, I wonder). But a summer articling with the Crown Prosecutor’s Office and an entertaining course on Intellectual Property changed all that and I spent the first twenty or so years of my career doing mostly Trade-mark Law.

About five years ago, a friend of mine started a part time Wills and Estates practice and I was helping him acquire the trade-mark “Wills On Wheels”. A few years later he suggested I help him out with his practice. I was very reluctant; my experience was limited to a mandatory law class on Wills. Although I still had the text book -- on the office bookshelf, mostly for show -- I certainly hadn’t opened it in decades. Heck, I didn’t even have a Will myself.

But by then I had had my own Trade-mark law practice for a few years. I had no boss, no partners, no employees; I was free to do as I pleased. My clients were mostly foreign and the practice almost entirely electronic. I had a smartphone and worked whenever and wherever I wanted. Life was pretty sweet except, although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was starved for human contact in my professional life.

Starting My Estate Planning Firm

And so, I threw caution to the wind, read some books about Wills and took on his overflow work. I soon realized that I had real empathy and, I think, talent for this work. And, more importantly, I really, really enjoyed it. This was not dull dreary Bleak House kind of stuff—Of course, it wasn’t Grisham’s The Testament either, but it could be!

With the realization that I like this work, it’s time to step it up a notch or two. Time to spread my wings and not just rely on the overflow but really start to market myself. I am that butterfly busting out of it’s cocoon and this blog is my wings.

My Philosophy

My goal is to deliver personalized high quality legal services in a direct, approachable and cost effective way. I implement the efficient use of technology to reduce or eliminate bottom line costs to my clients. I am part of Wills on Wheels and offer mobile services; if a client prefers not to come to my office, I offer a home visit Will writing service. I meet with clients in their homes or at some other convenient place at no extra cost.

People love it that they don’t have to meet me in my office at my convenience. And, I love it that they are so grateful and appreciative.