A look at spousal rights when a person dies without a will

This article looks at spousal benefits under WESA, including the spousal home and preferential share.

When a spouse passes away without a will, the surviving partner is often left bereft and confused about the future. Questions may arise about how the surviving spouse will support themselves and whether he or she will be able to stay in the home that was shared with their former partner. Fortunately, if a spouse does pass away without a will, the recent Wills, Estates and Succession Act (WESA) provides some significant protections for the surviving spouse. Below is a brief overview of what rights and benefits surviving spouses have under WESA.

Spousal home

As the Globe and Mail points out, one of the biggest changes brought into law by WESA was the abolishment of the spousal life interest in the spousal home. Now, a surviving spouse has the option to purchase the spousal home outright for a certain period of time at fair market value. In some cases, the court may reduce the price of the home if the surviving spouse is experiencing significant financial challenges.

As the Government of British Columbia points out, giving spouses the right to buy the property outright has two significant advantages. For one, it allows the surviving spouse to own the home they live in. Secondly, it means that the surviving spouse can more easily move out of the home if they choose to do so. This second option is especially beneficial to those who want to downsize their living arrangements after the death of a spouse.

Preferential share

Another significant change brought about under WESA is the spouse's preferential share in the estate. The spouse's preferential share of the estate depends considerably on the surviving spouse's biological relationship with any surviving children of the deceased. For example, if all the children of the deceased are also children of the surviving spouse then the surviving spouse's preferential share of the estate is $300,000.

However, in situations where the deceased has left behind children who are not also children of the surviving spouse then the preferential share of the estate for the surviving spouse is $150,000 along with half of the remainder of the estate (with the other half being divided among the surviving children).

Estate administration

For those who have just lost a loved one, dealing with issues like estate administration can feel confusing and even overwhelming. While this is a time for grief, administering the estate of a deceased loved one is nonetheless an important and necessary step. A lawyer who is experienced in estate planning and administration can help those who find themselves dealing with estate administration issues by providing compassionate and knowledgeable guidance during this difficult time.