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Willskeeper's Resource Centre

Inheritance In Canada

  • Willskeeper

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At the end of one’s life, the question is raised: What happens to all of their assets and debts? How does the estate get divided up? What if there is no Will? These questions and many more tend to get asked, and after the death of a loved one, family members can quickly become overwhelmed with the various responsibilities and obligations that come with death.


Canada delegates the rules surrounding inheritance to the provinces, meaning each province has slightly different rules about how inheritance is distributed. Two circumstances will dictate what happens to one’s estate [NTD: Link estate article] after the death. In the circumstance that someone leaves a legal and valid Will, the estate is distributed in accordance with that Will. In the circumstance that someone passes away intestate, the provincial rules will apply and the estate will be distributed accordingly.

My Spouse Passed Away, Who Inherits What?

Inheritance as a whole depends heavily on whether or not a Will exists, and what was specified in the Will. Each province has its own rules concerning the order of inheritance. For example, in Ontario, the surviving spouse will automatically inherit the matrimonial home.

If a Will is present at the time of death, and beneficiaries are listed to receive certain assets, barring the distribution of the estate to pay debts the beneficiaries can expect to receive their share of the estate. If their spouse is listed as the sole beneficiary, then they will inherit all assets left behind. However, if the deceased was intestate, then things get more complicated, and the provincial rules will supersede the wishes of the dead.