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Navigating Estate Distribution: Ontario Laws for Insurance Proceeds Without a Named Beneficiary


Losing a loved one is an emotionally challenging time, and dealing with estate matters can add further complexity, especially when there’s no Will in place. In Ontario, when a husband passes away without a Will and leaves behind an insurance policy without a named beneficiary but has a minor son and a surviving spouse, several legal considerations come into play regarding the distribution of insurance proceeds and potential probate obligations. 


Distribution of Insurance Proceeds: 

When an individual dies without a Will (intestate) and has an insurance policy without a named beneficiary, the government of Ontario follows the rules of intestacy outlined in the Succession Law Reform Act (SLRA). In this scenario, the insurance proceeds would typically form part of the deceased’s Estate. 

Under the SLRA, if the deceased is survived by a spouse and a child (or children), the Estate is divided as follows: 

The spouse is entitled to the first $350,000 of the Estate. 

The remainder of the Estate is divided equally between the spouse and the child (or children), with the spouse receiving an equal share with the children. 

However, it’s important to note that insurance proceeds with a named beneficiary are generally not subject to Probate, as they pass directly to the named beneficiary (if any) outside of the Estate. In this case, since there’s no named beneficiary, the insurance proceeds would become part of the Estate and follow the distribution rules outlined above. 


Minor Child’s Share: 

When a minor child is entitled to a share of the Estate, the law requires that a legal guardian or trustee be appointed to manage the child’s inheritance until they reach the age of majority (18 years old) in Ontario. This guardian or trustee is responsible for making financial decisions on behalf of the child and ensuring that their inheritance is used for their benefit and welfare. 

Probate Considerations for the Surviving Spouse: 

As mentioned earlier, insurance proceeds are typically not subject to Probate when there’s a named beneficiary. However, in cases where the insurance proceeds become part of the Estate due to the absence of a named beneficiary, the surviving spouse may need to apply for Probate if the Estate’s value exceeds the probate threshold set by the province. 

Probate is a legal process where the court validates the deceased’s Will (if any) and grants authority to the Executor to administer the Estate. Probate fees are calculated based on the Estate’s value and are payable by the Estate’s assets before distribution to beneficiaries. 


Seeking Legal Guidance: 

Given the legal intricacies involved in Estate distribution, especially in cases of intestacy and minor beneficiaries, the surviving spouse must seek legal advice from a knowledgeable Estate Planning lawyer in Ontario. A legal professional can assist in navigating the estate administration process, appointing guardians, or trustees for minor beneficiaries, and ensuring compliance with probate requirements if applicable. 

In conclusion, when a husband dies without a Will and leaves behind an insurance policy without a named beneficiary but has a minor son and a surviving spouse, the distribution of insurance proceeds and potential probate obligations are governed by Ontario’s intestacy laws and Probate rules. Seeking legal guidance is essential to protect the interests of all parties involved and ensure that estate matters are handled appropriately and in accordance with the law. 


You might want to check out our blog post on Unmarried Couples, Children, and Homeownership in Ontario

Read our expert advice on Insurance Trusts

Ministry of the Attorney General Information on Estates, Wills and Trusts

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This material is for general information and educational purposes only. Information is based on data gathered from what we believe are reliable sources. It is not guaranteed as to accuracy, does not purport to be complete and is not intended to be used as a primary basis for investment decisions.