Who Gets Your Estate When You Don’t Have a Will?

Often one of the most important aspects of planning for your future is overlooked - creating your will. According to a recent 2018 poll, a surprising 51% of Canadians are without a will or estate plan.

Why are so many Canadians neglecting this important procedure? And what happens to their estate when they do?


Regardless of age, financial situation, or regular day stressors in your life, having a will and estate plan has never been as important as it is today. With so much dependence on technology, ensuring someone can get access to your accounts and assets (digital or otherwise) is critical.


Remember, your executor will probably be a loved one and you don’t want to leave them with a frustrating mess. Continue reading to learn what happens to Canadians without a will and the steps you can take to prepare your estate.

Estate Distribution Without a Will


According to Ontario provincial law, when you die, your estate is covered by the Succession Law Reform Act. This act clearly displays the line of succession in case of an untimely death.


If you failed to produce a will before your death, you can expect the following items to be distributed accordingly:


  1. If you have no children and are married, your spouse will receive your entire estate.


  1. If you are married and have no children, your estate will be distributed to your closest living blood relatives.  The following would become the distribution hierarchy.

    1. Parents > Siblings > Nieces & Nephews


  1. If you are married and have children, your spouse will receive the first $200,000 of your assets.  The remainder of your estate will be divided between your spouse and children. However, this will vary according to how many children you have.

  1. Lastly, if you have no next of kin, your estate will be given to the Crown.  This means that your property will become the Crown’s property, which is an extremely rare occurrence.


It’s important to note that common-law spouses have no claim to an estate.  


After the procedure of death, the law will follow specific steps regarding who is to receive the estate. It should also be noted that without a will, estate distribution will often cause feuds within the family.


Prince’s Estate Battle: An Example for Canadians


To gain a better understanding of what estate distribution looks like without a will or estate plan, we can look at Prince’s estate battle as an infamous example:


  • When Prince died on April 21, 2016, he not only left a $200 million estate behind, he also left it without a will or estate plan.

  • Since his death, it has taken approximately one year just to determine the beneficiaries - which at one point totaled 29 people claiming the inheritance.

  • Throughout the course of litigation, the judge had declared that Prince’s six siblings were the legal heirs of his estate.  

  • Since then, further disputes have erupted causing more delays in Prince’s siblings’ inheritance, and they still have not received it to this day over two years after his death.

  • Due to the many disputes and legal fees involved, there is serious concern that there will be no inheritance left to distribute by the time all is resolved.


While not all estates are as large as Prince’s, this is a clear example of how relationships can be ruined and estate property can fall into unwanted hands without a plan.


Are you one of over half of Canadians that don’t have a will yet?

Get started now by downloading this complimentary Will Preparation Guide or visit ERAssure.com for more information on planning your estate.

For a list of ERAssure Estate Service Providers in your area

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Downloadable Resources

Want more information on planning, preparing and administering an estate? Download our easy to use reference guides and resources to help you along the way.


  • Executor Liability Insurance - Return the completed application to our office to find out if you are eligible for executor liability insurance.


  • Fiduciary Bonds - Have you been asked to provide a bond for the estate? Download the application and follow the directions to apply for a bond.


  • Free Executor Guide - If you have been asked to be an executor or are acting as an executor this guide will help you understand your responsibilities and help track your activities.


  • Free Will Preparation Guide - A step to step guide to the questions you will need to address when preparing your will.


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