Survey on the Intestate Succession Act

The Law Reform Commission of Nova Scotia is reviewing the Intestate Succession Act, which is the law that decides how a person’s money and property is divided when they die without a will.
The Law Reform Commission is an independent provincial agency that helps your government decide whether to make changes to Nova Scotia's laws.

In this survey we first provide information on how the law divides property when people die without a will and why it is important to make a will. 
If you do not wish to read this information, please skip ahead to the survey.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Introduction to the Intestate Succession Act
An “intestacy” or dying “intestate” occurs when a person dies without a valid will. A person who dies without a valid will may also be referred to as “the intestate”.

Even if a person has a will, any property that is not dealt with in the will is divided according to the Intestate Succession Act.
Under the Intestate Succession Act, if a person dies intestate and leaves a surviving spouse but no children, all of their estate goes to the surviving spouse. If a person dies leaving both a surviving spouse and children, their estate is divided between the surviving spouse and children. In some cases, grandchildren, parents, siblings, or other relatives may inherit the estate.

In the Intestate Succession Act, “spouse” refers only to the person who a) was married to the deceased or b) was in a partnership with the deceased and that partnership was registered at Vital Statistics.

Common law partners – those who live together but who are not married and do not have a registered domestic partnership – are not included in the Intestate Succession Act.

The number of common law relationships is growing in Nova Scotia and the rest of Canada. Several other provinces do include common law relationships in their intestate succession laws.