Last updated March 2023
A Will is a legal document that sets forth your wishes regarding the distribution of your property and the care of any minor children when you pass away. A Will is a crucial aspect of estate planning for a number of reasons:
On December 1, 2021, British Columbia became the first province to allow electronic wills – fully digital wills.Previously, a will-maker could only make a valid will under BC law by signing a physical will with wet ink in the presence of two witnesses (who may be physically or virtually present – i.e. linked to the will-maker by videoconference). The two witnesses then had to sign the same physical will or a counterpart with wet ink in the will-maker’s physical or virtual presence. As these changes are still relatively new and have not been fully interpreted by the courts, we still recommend that you print out and sign your will in wet ink in front of your two witnesses.
There are two things in life that you cannot avoid: death and taxes. A will helps you plan for both. We have set out a few of the most common reasons why a will is important to have:
If you die intestate—that is, without a will—the state oversees the dispensation of your assets, which it will typically distribute according to a set formula.In B.C. your assets will be distributed according to the provincial law under the Wills, Estates and Succession Act however, this may not accurately reflect your wishes. By not having a Will, you also forgo the right to select an executor of your choice (this is the person who steps into your shoes when you are gone and they are responsible for administering your estate in accordance with your wishes. Additionally, you may have negative tax consequences if the estate hasn’t been organized appropriately in advance. Essentially, the estate process typically becomes more costly and time consuming for your loved ones. For example, many financial institutions are less willing to deal with family members, etc. when there is no will.
Someone will have to apply to the Supreme Court of British Columbia on your behalf for an appointment of a committee of your estate in order to have legal authority to help you with your legal and financial decisions. This could be a lengthy and costly process whereas creating an Enduring Power of Attorney in advance will allow them to be able to make these decisions right away without a court order that requires additional wait times, added cost and stress.If there is no one to make this application on your behalf, then the Public Guardian and Trustee (the government body that deals with minors and persons without capacity) will have to apply to be appointed by the court for this role. The main advantage of an enduring power of attorney is that it allows you to make your own arrangements in the event of incapacity without government involvement and at a much lower cost.
No, there is no legal requirement for a lawyer to draft your will, however “you don’t know what you know”. Luckily our co-founder is a practicing lawyer in British Columbia and has drafted our Willfinity wills based on her years of experience in the wills and estate field of law.
Your executor should be someone that you trust with good business and financial sense. Here are some points to think about when appointing an executor:
You should keep your originally signed will somewhere safe and let your named executors know where to find it. A waterproof and fireproof safe in your house is a good option. You can also store the Will in your safety deposit box at the bank if you have one but your are not required to do so.
Yes, but only a spouse or child (either biological or legally adopted) may commence a proceeding to vary a will that does not adequately provide for the spouse or child’s proper maintenance and support.This means that if a spouse or a child is left out of a will, they can make a claim against the willmaker’s estate requesting that a court alter the distribution in the will. If, in the court’s opinion, the will-maker has failed to make adequate provision for the proper maintenance and support of a spouse or child, the court may order the provision be made that it thinks is “adequate, just and equitable” in the circumstances which may be different than what is set out in your will. If you are leaving a spouse or child out of your will, please obtain independent legal advice first.
Yes, you can make a will from home by speaking to a will specialist over the phone. We’ll talk through everything one step at a time in order to draw up a will that perfectly reflects your wishes. This will then be sent out in the post for you to sign alongside two witnesses.
You don’t need to go and see a lawyer to make a will – you can do it all from the comfort of your own home. In most cases, everything can be handled over the phone by our will specialists. But if you need specific advice around inheritance tax planning, you’ll be able to speak to a solicitor to get the help you need.
Once you’ve received your will you will need to print and sign it alongside two witnesses – this is also known as executing your will. This is an essential step to make sure your will is legally binding, so it’s important that you don’t put it off.
No, you don’t need to get a lawyer to sign your will to make it legally binding. Your will can actually be signed and witnessed by anyone, as long as they aren’t beneficiaries of your will, or married to beneficiaries.
Most people choose friends, family or colleagues to witness their will, but, as long as they aren’t beneficiaries of your will or married to beneficiaries, you can choose anyone over 18. During the coronavirus lockdown, it’s recommended that you have your will witnessed by people in your household. If this isn’t possible, you could ask neighbours from the same household to witness your will.
Probate is the legal process you need to go through to deal with someone’s estate when they die. This is often called ‘applying for probate’. After submitting your application to the government, you’ll receive a document that you can take to banks, the Land Registry and other organisations. This gives you the authority to collect assets and distribute funds to beneficiaries.
Probate is required after around 50% of deaths in the Canada and can be needed whether there is a will or not. If most of the assets were jointly owned or the estate’s value is less than $10,000, you may not need to apply for probate. In most other cases, applying for probate is an essential step in dealing with someone's estate.
In cases where probate is required, it's the executor's responsibility to apply for probate and deal with the estate. This may include gathering information about the deceased's assets, submitting the probate application, selling property, closing bank accounts and distributing funds to beneficiaries.Willfinity's Essential Probate service can help you get a grant of probate for as little as $895. We also offer a Complete Probate service if you don't have the time or confidence to deal with the estate admin yourself, which we quote for on case by case basis.
If you're happy to sell property, close down bank accounts and distribute money in accordance with your loved one's wishes, your probate fees could be as little as $795 with Willfinity's Essential Probate service. This could save you hundreds compared to the Canada average of $2,000. If the estate you’re dealing with is more complex and you don’t have the time or confidence to deal with all the admin, you may also be interested in our Complete Probate service. This is quoted on a case-by-case basis depending on the complexity of the estate, but is fixed and agreed upfront.
The whole probate and estate admin process can take 3 to 12 months The exact timelines will depend on the size of the estate, and how complicated it is to sort out. For the most complex cases, the process can take longer than a year.The first step (getting you the legal probate document) can take 1 to 3 months This document is called the ‘grant of probate’, or ‘grant of letters of administration’ if there’s no will. For simple cases, we always aim to get this document to you within 30 working days. But because of the way the probate registry works, and delays being caused by COVID-19, it’s currently taking more like 1 to 3 months.Once you’ve got your grant, there are two ways of doing things You can either sort out the estate yourself — including things like closing accounts, selling property and distributing assets to beneficiaries — or we can handle the estate admin and finances for you.
©2023 OBA Creative Ltd. Willfinity is an online service providing legal forms and information. Willfinity is not a law firm or a substitute for a lawyer’s advice about complex estate planning issues.