Is It Always Necessary To Probate a Will?

The short answer is no! It is not necessary to transfer jointly owned real property, jointly owned bank accounts, insurance or pension plan proceeds payable to a named beneficiary, registered government securities or Canada Pension  Plan survivor benefits. Nor is it necessary for estates of small value.  The following outlines more specifically when probate is necessary:
1. Where there is no will - the entire estate willbe subject to probate fees.
2. Where litigation is involved - if the estate is involved in litigation, probate is necessary.
3. Where beneficiaries are under-age - whenever there are infant beneficiaries the executor will normally seek protection by having all accounts approved by the courts.
4. Real Property - Under the land titles system the registrar of land titles certifies title to the property.  Where a deceased dies with a will, the registrar will require letters probate before it will transfer property registered in the land titles system if the value of the property exceeds $50,000. If the value of the property is worth less than $50,000 it may be transferred on the basis of an unprobated will.
5. Bank Accounts - It is the practice of banks and trust companies to require letters probate before assets in excess of $10,000-$15,000 are transferred.  In the case of joint accounts, the assets can be transferred to the survivor upon production of a notarial copy of the death certificate.  The transfer of the contents of a jointly held safety deposit box is effected in the same manner.
6. Shares - Personally owned company shares require probate for transfer to beneficiaries.
7. Canada Savings Bonds - Probate is not required if the Canada Savings Bonds to be transferred do not exceed $20,000 and if the applicant is entitled to the entire estate.  If the entire estate passes to the surviving spouse the limit is increased to $75,000.  CSB's can be held on a joint tency basis.  As such they can (if held jointly) be transferred without probaqte.  The same holds true for other bonds issued by the Government of Canada.  It should be noted that unless joint tenancy is psecified the bonds are assumed to be held as tenants in common. 
It is important to note that each province has it own probate schedule ranging from $4-$16 per thousand of probateable assets.
***Information provided by Wawanesa Life Insurance Company 2009