Vanessa Roberts and Amber Hoffart
If someone dies without a Will, it is referred to as dying “intestate”. If you are unsure of the existence of a Will, or know it exists but cannot find it, you must do your best to try and locate one. The absence of a Will can have a big impact on estate administration. In these situations, the estate is distributed to the next-of-kin by the government, according to provincial laws. These laws do not take into account the specific needs or wishes of the family.
Follow These Steps to Look For a Will:
- Checking every property owned, rented, or leased by the deceased.
- Speak with any person who may have pertinent information or know the location of the Will.
- Contact banks to confirm there is no safety deposit box where the Will may have been stored.
- Contact lawyers in the area, as well as anywhere the deceased previously lived.
- Contact your local Law Society to put a call out amongst lawyers to look for the Will or to help locate the deceased’s lawyer (listed below).
- Contact the local Court Registrar nearest to where the deceased last lived to see if the deceased left it there for safekeeping.
- Find a Will by searching the Canada Will Registry and/or a Provincial Will Search (links below).
It is important to document what you did to look for the Will.
Document Your Search
It is important to document what you did to look for the Will, as you may be asked to provide proof that you did an adequate search. If you can’t track down the Will, someone may have to apply to the court to be appointed as the estate representative. The estate representative will have the same duties as an estate representative appointed through a Will, but they must get permission from the court before they can begin carrying out their duties.
Canada Will Registry
You can use the Canada Will Registry to find a Will. This registry is a secure database of registered Wills across the country, created and maintained by Notice Connect. This is a paid service, and the cost can be considered an estate expense.
Provincial Will Search
Some provinces have a government Will registry that can be searched after someone has died. The local Law Society can often conduct a Will search on your behalf. You will likely need to know the deceased’s given full name (any preferred names that could have been used), last place of residence and date of death (approximation).
Not every province has these services available, but the ones that do are listed below:
Cadence can help with estate settlement