Dying Intestate

Over the last thirty years, the average and median age of Canadians has gradually increased. As health care improves and life span increases, senior citizens constitute a higher percentage of the population than at any other point in our history. As a result, we face radically different problems now than we did in the past. In the mid-’90s, when the baby boomers constituted the majority of 25-45-year-olds, the crime rates were so high that authors were predicting a dystopian future, where the crime was rampant and only gated communities could survive. Instead, we have watched crime plummet and are now enjoying eight straight years where most crimes and their cumulative amount have declined.

An aging population probably played a factor in that phenomenon, but it brought about problems of its own. Many Canadians are ill-prepared to deal with the vast transfer of wealth that is about to engulf us. Over the next two decades, by some estimates, a trillion dollars in equity is going to be transferred between the generations. A Will can ensure that the disposition of money and assets is done according to the deceased’s wishes. Without one, however, the situation can become more chaotic.

Dying intestate means dying without having made a Will, or without having a valid and accessible Will. In such a situation the Canadian government steps in and dictates how your estate will be distributed. Per the Succession Law Reform Act, when an individual dies intestate, the estate is distributed accordingly:

  • Where there is a spouse and no children, the spouse inherits absolutely.
  • Where there is a spouse and one child, the spouse takes the first $200, 000. The residue is divided among the spouse and child equally.
  • Where there is a spouse and multiple children, the spouse takes the first $200, 000 and one-third of the residue. The rest is split among the children.
  • Where there is no spouse, the children inherit equally.
  • Where there is no spouse or children, the parents inherit.
  • If there is no spouse, children or parents, the siblings inherit.
  • If the siblings have predeceased, their children inherit.
  • If there are no children of siblings, then the next to inherit is the next of kin in consanguinity.
  • If not next of kin, the entire estate escheats to the crown.

Dying intestate will result in your estate being distributed according to the order above, and of course, it will be too late to say otherwise. Making a Will while you can ensure that your estate is distributed according to your wishes.