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Carrying Out Final Wishes

Having no will leaves estate administration to the courts

Wills are the most common way for a person to decree how his or her estate will be handled after they have passed away. They can be set up to provide welcome gifts to grieving loved ones, or to make provisions for vulnerable heirs. However, they can only be effective if they are written, and many people in British Columbia either have no will, or have not kept theirs up-to-date. In some cases, this may mean estate administration becomes very complicated, or even left entirely to the courts.

The results from a recent survey show the majority of Canadians have not made a will. Of those surveyed, 62 percent reported they did not have a will made out, including almost half of all senior citizens. While the remaining respondents did have wills, 12 percent were aware their will was no longer entirely relevant to their current situation.

A person who passes away without a will is said to die intestate. In this event, it is up to a judge to make decisions as to the dispersal of the estate, unless someone comes forward to be appointed as administrator. These decisions may not match what the decedent would have wanted, and could leave some heirs and other possible beneficiaries disappointed. Probating an estate without a will could take as long as two years, and challenges from family and loved ones might occur.

An out-of-date will may be just as bad as no will at all. Gifts left to beneficiaries who are no longer in good standing with the decedent, such as an ex-wife, may anger other family members. The flip side of that coin is the possible omission of loved ones who were not around when the will was originally written, such as a second family, or adopted children. Some newly acquired assets may be left out entirely. All of these factors can cause difficulty for the executor.

If a loved one has passed away without a will, and one wishes to be named as administrator, application must be made to the court. If one is the appointed executor of an out-of-date will, he or she will probably want support during estate administration. In either case, the assistance of a lawyer who is very familiar with estate law in British Columbia could be very valuable.

Source: metronews.ca, "Canadians not organizing their end-of-life documents", Talbot Boggs, March 14, 2017

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