Having a Will is arguably one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your family because wills name an executor (a person or institution appointed by you to carry out the terms of your Will), distribute your property according to your wishes, name guardians for your children, forgive debts and more. Having a Will allows you, rather than British Columbia’s Wills, Estates and Succession Act (“WESA”), to decide who gets your property, who will be the guardian for minor or special needs children and more when you die.
If you die without a Will you die “intestate” and your assets will be distributed according to Part 3, When a Person Dies Without a Will, Division 1 – Distribution of Estate When There is No Will.
- If you have a spouse and children, household furnishings and the first $300,000 goes to your spouse with the balance of your estate split between your spouse who receives 50% and your children who receive the remaining 50%. If your children are minors, the money will be held by the Public Guardian and Trustee, not your spouse, until the children reach the age of nineteen (19) when it is paid to them.
- If you are a blended family, the first $150,000 goes to your spouse with the balance of your estate spilt between your spouse who receives 50% and all your children who receive the remaining 50%.
- If you do not have a spouse or children, your estate is generally distributed to family members in the following order: your parents, then your siblings, then your nieces and nephews, then your aunts/uncles and then your cousins.
- If you do not have any of the above, then your estate will go to the B.C. government.
It’s important to know the WESA only deals with assets that are solely in your name and that do not have a designated beneficiary. Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSA), Registered Retirement Saving Plans (RRSP), Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIF) and life insurance policies all have the option for you to designate a beneficiary, an individual, an institution or your estate, and would be distributed according to those designations.
Some of your assets, such as real estate, bank accounts and vehicles, can be jointly owned and many couples hold all of their assets jointly and so on the death of one spouse all assets are distributed to the surviving spouse even if there are children, because of the right of survivorship.
Dying intestate (without a Will) does not necessarily mean your estate will go to the government, but it does mean you do not get to choose who your beneficiaries are, how much your beneficiaries will receive and other distributions that may be important to you. It can also mean delays, extra expense, and financial and emotional hardship for your loved ones.
Common reasons why people don’t draft wills include: the belief that only well-do-do people need a Will; working with a lawyer to draft a Will is expensive; that their family will divide up assets in a fair and harmonious manner; and to avoid thinking about their own demise.
Estate planning is an important consideration for all of us and, given the current environment, has become a priority for many of our clients. If you do not have a Will or your Will needs to be updated, we can help. Milestone Real Estate Lawyers has years of experience in drafting Wills so that your children will have the guardians you have chosen, and your assets go where you want them to go and not where a government statute says they will go.
We are open and have adapted our practices to ensure continued support for our clients. If you would like more information please call us at 778-726-0199 and press 4 for our Wills and Estate Team or complete the Milestone Real Estate Lawyer Contact Form.