Preparing a will is an important step in protecting your assets and loved ones. Wills in BC are governed by the Wills, Estates and Succession Act, SBC 2009, c. 13 (“WESA”). A will from a different country or province may be valid in BC, but keep in mind that wills made in BC must follow the laws of WESA.
When you die, all of your assets are divided based on whether they are part of your estate or not. A will deals with your estate. Your estate includes:
- Tangible personal property, such as cars, jewelry, or artwork;
- Intangible personal property, such as stocks, bonds, or bank accounts; and
- Real estate interests.
Assets that are not considered to be part of your estate include:
- Property held in joint tenancy, which passes to the surviving tenant by way of the right of survivorship;
- Life insurance, RRSP, TFSA, or pension plans, that pass to a designated beneficiary; and
- Property which must be divided under the Family Law Act.
What if I do not have a will?
If you die without leaving a will, that means you have died intestate. Your estate will be passed along your surviving relatives in a particular order, if you die without a spouse:
- Great-grandchildren and further descendants
- Nieces and nephews
- Great-nieces and nephews
- Aunts and uncles
- Second cousins
If you die intestate with a spouse, WESA governs the preferential share of your estate that should be left to your spouse along with your children.
In BC, you must leave a part of your estate to your children and your spouse. Your children and your spouse are the only individuals who have the right to vary and challenge your will upon your passing. If you choose not to leave part of your estate to your children and your spouse due to reasons you find legitimate, such as estrangement, then you must include your reasoning in your will. The court will determine whether your decision is valid based on society’s expectations of what a reasonable person would do in your circumstances, based on modern community standards.
1. Why is preparing a will important?
Preparing a will is crucial for protecting your assets and ensuring your loved ones are taken care of according to your wishes. It helps to avoid potential disputes among survivors and ensures your assets are distributed as you intended.
2. What laws govern wills in BC?
Wills in BC are governed by the Wills, Estates and Succession Act, SBC 2009, c. 13 (WESA). This act outlines the legal requirements for creating a valid will in BC.
3. Can a will from another country or province be valid in BC?
Yes, a will from a different country or province may be recognized as valid in BC. However, wills made in BC must comply with the specific laws outlined in WESA.
4. What does a will in BC cover?
A will in BC typically covers your estate, which includes tangible personal property (e.g., cars, jewelry), intangible personal property (e.g., stocks, bonds), and real estate interests.
5. Are there assets that are not covered by a will in BC?
Yes, certain assets are not considered part of your estate and include property held in joint tenancy, life insurance, RRSPs, TFSAs, or pension plans with a designated beneficiary, and property to be divided under the Family Law Act.
6. What happens if I die without a will in BC?
Dying without a will means you have died intestate. Your estate will be distributed to your surviving relatives in a specific order defined by WESA, which varies depending on whether you leave behind a spouse, children, or other relatives.
7. How is my estate distributed if I die intestate with a spouse?
WESA outlines the distribution of your estate among your spouse and children if you die intestate, ensuring a preferential share for your spouse along with provisions for your children.
8. Do I have to leave part of my estate to my children and spouse in BC?
Yes, in BC, your will must make provisions for your children and spouse. They have the legal right to challenge your will if they believe they have been unfairly omitted or inadequately provided for.
9. Can I choose not to leave anything to my children or spouse?
You can choose not to leave part of your estate to your children or spouse for legitimate reasons, such as estrangement. However, you must explain your reasons in your will. The court will assess whether your decisions align with what a reasonable person would do under similar circumstances, based on modern community standards.
Pax Law can help you!
Finally, subject to some exceptions, your will must be executed in the presence of two witnesses who are both present at the same time. Since the law of wills is complex and certain formalities must be met in order for a will to be valid, it is important for you to speak with a lawyer. Making a will is one of the most important decisions you will make, so please consider booking a session with our Estates Lawyer today.