- Katzman Estate Law probate lawyers can handle the entire probate process virtually without any additional cost.
- Our virtual probate process is often faster and cheaper than how most law firms handle probate matters. Our process for virtual probate is almost always far more convenient for an executor (or estate trustee).
- Probate fees can either be paid by an estate directly or an executor can reimburse themselves after probate is granted. We first try to work with banks to avoid a client paying out of pocket.
- Executors need reliable, timely legal advice and should not simply hire the lawyer geographically or emotionally closest to them. An experienced estate lawyer can move an estate forward faster while avoiding pitfalls that can damage an estate and get an executor sued.
- An executor never has to use the lawyer who drafted a Will, even if that lawyer is in physical possession of an original Will. We do the work to obtain the Will, complete the application, and get it filed with the court.
- Katzman Estate Law lawyers provide free phone consultations and can assist anyone with an Ontario probate matter. As we hope is clear from this website, we value our clients’ time, speak plainly, and get to the point. Call 1-844-602-4242 for a free conversation with an estate lawyer to hear what we have to say.
What is probate and why do I need it?
Probate is a somewhat outdated term that describes the process of obtaining a certificate from the court appointing a certain person or group of people as executors of an estate. The certificate also establishes which Will is valid, or that a person died with no valid Will (intestacy).
When there is a valid Will, the new name for this process in Ontario is called an Application for the Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee with a Will. The process on an intestacy is called an Application for the Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee without a Will. Banks, the government, and other institutions may demand that an executor obtain probate (or Certificate of Appointment) before recognizing their authority. No one wants to get probate, but executors often need probate to access estate bank accounts.
The first step to administer an estate is usually to apply for probate. An estate lawyer can advise an executor whether probate will be required, as probate is not required for every estate. Across Ontario, all courts now accept the submission of probate applications electronically. This new accessibility means, now more than ever, executors have access to law firms focused on estate law no matter where they live in Ontario. To learn more about probate, click here.
To speak to a lawyer who has dedicated their practice to estates, call Katzman Estate Law today. Our lawyers have experience with:
- simple probate when someone dies with a clearly valid Will;
- probate when it is unclear if a Will is valid, or multiple Wills that could be valid;
- probate when someone dies without a Will (“intestate”);
- probate with the expectation of a dispute;
- probate when a deceased person made a Primary Will and a Secondary Will dealing with corporate assets; and
- probate for succeeding executors, meaning the replacement of an executor who has died, retired, been removed by the court.
All of the varieties of probate listed above can be handled virtually.
The job of an executor and why they need good lawyers
An executor is the person in charge of taking control of an estate and its assets. They deal with an estate’s liabilities, debts, and distributing assets pursuant to the law. It is a position that comes with great power, but also remarkable opportunity to make costly mistakes. Executors can quickly find themselves in trouble for errors that could have been avoided with proper legal advice. Ontario courts will hold executors financially responsible for the damage they cause.
Given the magnitude of the responsibility shouldered by executors and their significant liability for mistakes, an executor is not expected to act without the advice of a lawyer. Since the reasonable legal fees of an executor are paid directly by the estate, ignorance of the law is no excuse. That being said, an executor should choose their lawyer wisely. Executors do not just need advice; they need good advice.
Why choose Katzman Estate Law over a neighborhood lawyer?
Katzman Estate Law is capable of handling complicated estate administration and litigation matters and has dedicated its practice to estate law. Our lawyers know how to spot and avoid problems that would otherwise delay the administration of an estate or leave executors vulnerable to a lawsuit. Since our firm only focuses on estate law, we typically have more exposure to estate matters than a general practitioner or full-service firm. Ontario estate law has existed for over 100 years, but it does change every so often and new trends do develop. Katzman Estate Law stays on top of these changes and trends.
While most lawyers may be able to take on a probate matter, not every lawyer can properly advise an executor on their role as an executor, including:
- avoiding a trustee negligence claim and disputes with beneficiaries;
- moving a matter forward quickly and correctly;
- dealing with difficult or troublesome beneficiaries;
- connecting an executor with knowledgeable professionals to deal with the estate’s taxes; and
- keeping accounts in case they need to reviewed by the court.
Getting good advice from a lawyer who dedicates their practice to estate law is one way for an executor to ensure that the estate is dealt with properly. Making poor decisions or relying on poor advice early in the administration of an estate can spiral into years of litigation and cost an estate tens of thousands of dollars.
Good advice is required for a good outcome. An excellent example is what to do when a beneficiary requests information. Executors who deny beneficiaries access to information or documentation often find themselves in court, where no executor wants to be. At Katzman Estate Law, we know what gets an executor sued because a sizable part of our practice is suing and removing executors. Our estate litigation experience helps us protect our executor clients, even on simple probate matters.
At Katzman Estate Law, we understand that our clients are busy people whose lives do not stop just because they act as executors. Our purpose is to protect our clients, to advise them appropriately, and to make their time as executors as smooth as possible. Virtual probate is only one of the ways that we make things more convenient for our clients.
Virtually submitted probate is no different than an application that is prepared and submitted physically. Where executors see a difference is in their time saved. Being able to meet with a lawyer digitally to sign documents and ask questions saves executors both time and money. Executors are generally able to communicate with our office without having to take time off work, pay for parking, or attend at a lawyer’s office. Many clients meet with a lawyer from our office in the comfort of their own home using Zoom, provided they have internet and a computer with a web-camera or smartphone. Collecting a signature from an executor takes two minutes on a screen and is not worth a journey to a lawyer’s physical office.
Does the Court require any physical copies of documents?
Yes, the Court will still require some documents physically. The Court requires certain original documents no matter how an application is submitted. Ontario courts will require an original death certificate and the original Will(s) and any codicil(s) with the attached affidavits of execution. These documents must be submitted to the court physically. Our office arranges for these documents to be picked up directly from our clients, from funeral homes, and other lawyers’ offices to be filed with the necessary courthouse.
After we are retained, it usually takes us a month or less to file the application for probate. For our files, the slowest part of the process is the Court’s processing time. Average wait times vary depending on the courthouse, but it is usually a few months unless we have grounds to request that the application expedited.
Having experienced lawyers who know how to properly draft probate applications and who know when a Court will allow an application to be expedited is critical to ensuring timely processing and avoiding delays. Where appropriate, an expedited application can save an estate thousands of dollars and months of delay.
How does virtual probate work?
A virtual probate application is prepared, reviewed, signed, and submitted digitally. After a client signs our retainer agreement electronically and we confirm a client’s identity on a two minute video, we start to prepare the probate application. Documents created by our office can be emailed to beneficiaries to sign and return to our office electronically. All application documents, including sworn documents such as Affidavits, can be sworn by the executor digitally over a video call with our office. Once the application is complete, it is submitted online and processed by the Court in the same manner as a physical application.
Most information our office requires for the preparation of the probate application can be obtained over the phone or by email with the proposed executor. Our clients save hours of travel to and from their lawyers’ office using our virtual process.
Most of the virtual probate process is done over the phone and the technology that we use is not complex. We regularly work with clients who have very limited experience with technology and we provide the support necessary to make the process simple.
What is the first step?
Call 1-844-602-4242 for a conversation with a Katzman Estate Law lawyer. We provide free phone consultations and can assist anyone with an Ontario probate matter. We keep our clients informed with respect to where they are in the probate process, what the next step is, and what their obligations are.