Wills

I just moved to BC from another province. Should I make a new will?

The laws about wills and estates vary between provinces. You may need to re-write or edit your existing will to make sure it complies with the law in British Columbia so that your final wishes can be carried out. Any of our lawyers would be pleased to review your current will with you and bring it into compliance with British Columbia legislation if necessary.

I have an appointment with you to prepare my will. Is there anything I should do in advance?

Our estate planning lawyers will conduct a thorough consultation with you to make sure that your will meets your needs, but some of the things you can begin documenting in advance are:

  • What are your assets? The most common assets that get listed on a will include:
    • Real estate
    • Boats, cars, recreational vehicles
    • Jewelry
    • Artwork
    • Antiques
    • Ownership in a business
    • Chequing and savings accounts
    • Investments
    • Pension funds
  • What are your debts? These can include:
    • Your mortgage
    • Lines of credit and credit cards
    • Loans, including student or business loans
  • Beneficiaries
    • Do you wish to give specific belongings to any of your family members or friends?
    • Do you wish to donate a portion of your estate to charity?
  • Funeral and burial instructions

Who should I name as my executor?

The person (or people) you choose as your executor, also known as a personal representative, will be the one in charge of paying any debts that remain outstanding after your death, and then distributing to your beneficiaries whatever is left of your estate. Some people choose a friend or a family member. Some people appoint more than one executor. Other people prefer to use a professional executor service. Our lawyers would be happy to discuss your options with you and make recommendations based on your personal circumstances.

I have a will, but it’s 20 years old. Do I need a new one?

Generally speaking, you should review your will every 5 years to make sure it reflects your current wishes. You should review your will more frequently after any major change in your life, like a change in relationship status or the birth of children or grandchildren.
The law in British Columbia regarding wills and estates changed on March 31, 2014. If you reside in British Columbia and wrote your will before March 31,2014, it would be a good idea to make an appointment with one of our lawyers to review your will to make sure that it is consistent with the new legislation.

Why do I need a will?

People who die without a will are said to have died “intestate”. When a resident of British Columbia dies intestate, their estate is distributed according to a set formula in our Wills, Estates and Succession Act. Not only might the intestacy provisions not reflect your actual wishes, they are also unlikely to be the most tax-efficient way of distributing your estate. A will can save your loved ones from a great deal of stress, expense, and time because they will not have to guess or argue over what your wishes are. It is also vitally important to have a will if you have children or other dependents, or if you want to leave anything to someone who is not a member of your immediate family.

Can’t I just use a do-it-yourself wills kit?

Even if you think you don’t have much in the way of debt or assets, it’s still a good idea to consult with a lawyer when writing your will. Every person’s situation is different, and a one-size-fits-all will kit might not properly meet your needs. It’s better to have the piece of mind that comes with knowing that your will has been written to specifically address your situation and wishes.
Our estate planning lawyers have considerable expertise in working with clients to review circumstances and develop a plan that will best meet their needs. When we meet with you, our primary objective is to identify your ultimate goals. Once these are determined, we will work to create a plan with you that will best achieve these goals. This may include any combination of wills, trusts, powers of attorney, representation agreements and advance directives. Throughout the consultation and drafting process, we will provide you with time and cost estimates to create your plan.

I have been appointed executor of someone’s estate. What should I do?

Carrying out someone’s last wishes and winding up their affairs are big responsibilities, even if the recently deceased person has a relatively small estate. Any of our lawyers can help you with the process. We are available to give you a quick, one-time lesson on your tasks and obligations, or we can play a more active role in helping you wind up the estate that you’re in charge of administering. As we know that the assets of the deceased are typically frozen and they are the funds to be used to pay legal fees, we typically do not require a retainer for estate matters.

What is the difference between probate and estate administration?

Probate is the process that is followed when the deceased had a will whereas Estate Administration is the process that is followed when there is no will. In both cases there are very specific rules and procedures to be followed to wrap up the affairs of the deceased. Some assets can be dealt with prior to finalizing the estate, while others will be frozen pending the appointment of a Personal Representative. Regardless of the process that needs to be followed our experienced estate advisors can walk you through the process and provide legal and practical advice about how to proceed.