In early 2014, the Province of British Columbia introduced sweeping new legislation that would overhaul how wills and estates would work after a person passes away. Coming into effect on March 31, 2014, the Wills, Estate and Succession Act (WESA) provides increased certainty for individuals who put their last wishes into writing, while simplifying the process for those responsible for distributing an estate.
Why a New Act?
Well, the previous legal situation surrounding the disbursement of estates was needlessly complex. In creating WESA, the Province of British Columbia replaced the long-established Wills Act, Wills Variation Act, the Estate Administration Act, and the Probate Recognition Act. That’s four separate legal documents rolled into one convenient place. The old acts were some of the most dated areas of law in British Columbia. They were fragmented, conflicted in some areas and didn’t reflect modern circumstances.
In creating the new act, the provincial government convened some of British Columbia’s top wills and estate practitioners, alongside legal academics skilled in succession law. This dream team created a streamlined and modern document that forms the basis for modern wills and estate disbursement in our province.
Do Wills Pre-Dating 2014 Need to be Re-Written?
While WESA won’t invalidate a will that was written before it came into effect, it will have affects on all wills no matter when they were created. It’s recommended you sit down with a family law expert to examine your will to ensure your wishes are upheld in light of changes to wills. To give a specific example, marriage no longer revokes a will (if the marriage took place on or after March 31, 2014).
What About a Person Who Dies Without a Will?
Good question! Under WESA, the following rules are applied to individuals who die without a will in place:
- Spouse and no descendants – spouse gets it all
- Spouse and descendants – spouse gets household furnishings and ‘preferential share’
- All descendants are descendants of spouse and deceased, preferential share is at least $300,000
- All descendants are not common to the spouse and the deceased, preferential share is $150,000
iii. Once preferential share paid out, 50% of remainder to spouse and 50% to descendants no matter how many there are
- If there are two or more spouses, the spouses must agree on the division or the court will decide
- No spouse but descendants or relatives
- Parents in equal shares
iii. Descendants of parents
- Grandparents, or descendants of grandparents
- ½ to one side
- ½ to the other side
- Great grandparents or descendants
- Limit on degrees of relationship that qualify as successors – other than descendants more than four degrees of separation from deceased are excluded
- If no heirs, the estate goes to the Crown.
Ask the Experts
Need help writing a will? Perhaps you have questions surrounding the will process? The expert team at Westside is standing by to help. Contact us and we’ll be happy to assist.