It is becoming increasingly common for lawyers to discuss or recommend to clients to have two wills prepared if the testator has a substantial investment in one or more private companies .
This plan involves having one will to govern the estate assets that require probate and a second will to govern those estate assets that do not require probate. The customary objective is to achieve a significant savings in Estate Administration Tax.
Usually the will that governs the assets requiring probate is called the “Primary Will” and is signed first, and the will that governs the assets that don’t require probate is called the “Secondary Will” and is signed immediately afterwards.
Assets that can usually be dealt with without the necessity of a formal grant of probate by the court include things like shares in a privately held corporation, partnership interests, beneficial interests in a trust, unsecured debts, and household goods and personal effects except for those that are specifically dealt with under the primary will.
Sometimes even real property can be transferred without probate.
In Ontario there is a family property regime set out in the Family Law Act (FLA) which provides for the equal sharing of property accumulated by married parties during their marriage. Note, this provision does not apply to common-law spouses. What happens if, after the death of one married spouse, it is discovered that the deceased spouse has given all of his or her wealth to someone other than his or her surviving spouse?
Suppose Harold was married to Wendy for 42 years. After his death his last will and testament left most of his estate to his “close friend” Susan. Harold left Wendy $50,000.00. Wendy feels betrayed (especially if her will left everything to Harold). What can Wendy do?
In Ontario the FLA permits the surviving married spouse of the deceased to elect to take either under the will or to make a claim against the estate for an equalization of net family property (NFP) pursuant to Part I of the FLA.
Assuming Harold had a NFP greater than Wendy, Wendy may wish to