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To probate a will means to have the court say definitively that this document was the deceased's last will and to confirm someone to act as the deceased's personal representative, or executor. An application for probate also involves setting out the deceased's assets (as discussed in the previous post), so that the court and various financial institutions and the Land Titles Office can have some security in transferring those assets to another party for the benefit of the beneficiaries.
This is usually not a difficult process, particularly if you have good legal counsel to help you, but it doesn't happen overnight.
The law requires that you must wait at least seven days after a person's death to submit a will to probate. It is not unreasonable to have the application for probate prepared and ready to submit within this time frame, but usually a family is too busy dealing with other aspects of the passing of their loved one to worry too much about probate right away. The timing for when an application for probate is submitted will depend upon who the executor is, how extensive or complicated the estate is, and how easily information about the value of the estate and the beneficiaries is obtained.
Once the application is submitted, it usually takes 4 - 6 weeks for the grant of probate to be issued by a Justice of the Court of Queen's Bench. After the executor has received the grant of probate, he or she can take the grant to the institutions involved and begin collecting in assets. If land is involved, the timeline is extended, as documents will need to be submitted to the Land Titles Office to transfer the property to the executor in trust for the estate. It will then be up to the executor to either sell the property and include the proceeds as part of the residue of the estate, or to transfer the property to any individual or group who was left that specific property in the will.
If the assets have all be liquidated, then it is time to distribute the estate to the beneficiaries. However, it is advisable that executors wait until they have received a Clearance Certificate from the Canada Revenue Agency prior to distributing any money so that there is enough to pay any taxes that might be owing by the estate. That can take anywhere from 6 to 18 months, although interim distributions of partial inheritances can be arranged if deemed to be appropriate in the circumstances.
All told, executors have one year to try and wrap up an estate, although it can be shorter or longer, depending on the estate.
In other words, if you're a beneficiary under a will, don't count on your inheritance to be available to pay next month's rent.