Established under the Public Guardian and Trustee Act, the Public Guardian and Trustee of BC works to protect the legal rights and interests of vulnerable British Columbians. In family law, this independent and impartial public office plays a hugely important role, especially estate law and the administration of estates.
What does the Public Guardian and Trustee Do?
Simply put, the PGT serves those who are unable to protect themselves in court. They work to balance protection with autonomy, to ensure individuals can live as they choose with the support of family and friends.
The mandate of the PGT is to:
- Protect the legal and financial interests of children under the age of 19;
- Protect the legal financial, personal and health care interests of adults who require assistance in decision making; and
- Administer estates of deceased persons and missing persons
By far the most common scenario in which we encounter Public Guardian and Trustees in family law is in the administration of estates.
Public Guardian and Trustee: Estate Administration
When an executor, intestate, successor, beneficiary, or other eligible individual is not able or willing to act as executor of a will, the responsibility will typically fall upon the Public Guardian and Trustee.
The PGT has a very clear role in this process. It is not their place to assist in resolving any disputes that arise from administering the estate, nor do they provide any advice on how the process should be handled. They should be viewed as an impartial administrator with no bias.
What Happens if a Will is in Place?
The Public Guardian and Trustee will handle the administration of the will, according to the instructions laid out in the will.
What Happens Without a Will in Place?
British Columbia’s Wills, Estates and Succession Act grants the power to the Public Guardian and Trustee to administer an estate when an individual dies without a will. The PGT won’t always take on this responsibility. They will carry out an assessment first to see if their services are warranted, and they will not administer estates if the estimated gross value of the estate’s assets are not sufficient to pay funeral costs and PGT fees.
Responsibilities Undertaken by Public Guardian and Trustee in Wills
The Public Guardian and Trustee will undertake the following lengthy steps to ensure estates are administered in accordance with the law:
- Making funeral arrangements
- Identifying and dealing with assets
- Obtaining court authority
- Identifying and paying valid debts and claims against the estate
- Filing tax returns
- Dealing with any legal issues that arise
- Identifying and locating the rightful intestate successors and/or beneficiaries
Get in Touch
If you have questions about the office of Public Guardian and Trustee, contact us today to speak with a lawyer. We are hard at work to ensure your legal interests are secured during this stressful time.