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How Probate Works

Stuart Bollefer

Stuart Bollefer, a Toronto-based lawyer with Aird & Berlis LLP, oversees the assets of startups, billionaires, and other high net worth individuals. One element of law Stuart Bollefer handles, probate and estates, deals with the distribution of one's assets after death.

Probate occurs when an individual dies with sole ownership of an asset, whether that be a bank account, property, vehicle, or other thing of value. During probate, someone applies to become the executor of the estate, overseeing the distribution of the assets in the estate according to the will of the decedent. Some assets, such as gifts, assets in a trust, and insurance proceeds with a non-estate beneficiary, do not pass through the probate process.
The time it takes to obtain a grant of probate can vary, depending on the complexity of the estate. It can take up to several months or even longer for probate to be issued and the administration of an estate can take approximately a year to complete with complex estates taking much longer.
During probate, the executor of the estate files two tax returns on behalf of the decedent. The first return handles the individual's tax liability for the portion of the year in which the decedent was alive, while the second focuses on the remainder of the year. If taxes are due, these are generally paid out of the estate.

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