In an article about the lack of estate taxes in Canada that I wrote a couple weeks ago, The Financial Blogger mentioned that there are probate fees instead.  This got me thinking as I haven't done a lot of reading on probate fees, so I did some digging to get some info for interested readers.

What are probate fees?

Probate fees are basically a tax on your assets after you pass away.  Essentially, this is the Canadian version of the estate tax.  Each province has their own rules for the amount of probate charged.

Are there assets that are excluded from the probate fee calculation?

  • Yep, assets held in joint tenancy (like primary residence)
  • Assets such as life insurance and RRSP's with named beneficiaries.

Below is a table that I referenced off Scotia's website that explains probate fees by province:

Province Probate Fees Maximum fee
AB

$25  (estate < $10,000)

$100 ($10,000 < estate < $24,999)

$200 ($25,000 < estate < $124,999)

$300 ($125,000 < estate < $249,999)

$400 (estate > $250,000) 

$400
BC

$0 (estate < $10,000)

$208 ($10,001 < estate < $25,000)

$6 for every $1000 > $25,000 but < $50,000 plus $14 for every $1000 > 50,000 

None 
MB $50 (estate < $10,000) + $6 for every $1000 > $10,000. None
NB $5 for each $1,000 None
NL $85 (estate <=$1,000) + $5 for every $1,000 after + $50. None
NWT

 $25 (estate <$10,000)

$100 ($10,000 < estate < $25,000)

$200 ($25,000 < estate < $125,000)

$300 ($125,000 < estate < $250,000)

$400 (estate > $250,000  )

$400
NS

 $70 (estate < $10,000)

$176 ($10,000 < estate < $25,000)

$293 ($25,000 < estate < $50,000)

$820 ($50,000 < estate < $100,000)

$820 + $13.85 for each additional $1000 > $100,000 

None
ON

 $5 per $1,000 for the first $50,000

$15 per $1000 there after.

None
PE

 $50 (estate < $10,000)

$100 ($10,001 < estate < $25,000) 

$200 ($25,001 < estate < $50,000)

$400 ($50,001 < estate < $10,000)

$4 for each $1,000 there after.

+ 0.2% closing fee 

None
QC

$65 for non-notarial will

$0 for notarial will 

$65
SK  $7 for each 1,000 None
YT

 $0 if estate < $25,000

$140 otherwise 

$140

So it looks like if I were to pass away with $1 million in net worth (not including principle residence,rrsp, or insurance), I would owe the province of Newfoundland, $85 + $5 x (1,000,000/1,000) +50 = $5,135.  Looks steep compared to provinces like QC where the maximum is only $65!  QC must have some other death tax that I don't know about. :)

After seeing this info, how does one go about minimizing their probate fees? 

  • Make sure your spouse is named as the beneficiary of your RRSP and your primary residence is under joint ownership. 
  • Also, give away your cash while you are alive instead of it letting it be taxed at death. 

If you want to do some more reading on the topic, the Scotia website has some great tips on how to minimize probate fees.

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