Understanding legal jargon can often feel like trying to decipher a foreign language. However, when it comes to planning your estate, a basic comprehension of your provincial legislation is essential. In this blog post, we provide a simplified overview of the 'Wills, Estates and Succession Act' (WESA) of British Columbia.
Please note that this blog is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional legal advice.
Definition and Interpretation
In this section, WESA provides a comprehensive list of definitions for key terms used throughout the Act, such as child, will, estate, and more, providing clarity and facilitating understanding.
Part 2 lays out some fundamental rules about wills and estates:
It acknowledges a person's right to leave their property to anyone they choose.
It asserts that a person can't give away property they don't own at the time of their death.
It clarifies that a beneficiary who witnesses a will isn't disqualified from inheriting under it.
Making a Will
This section details the requirements for creating a valid will:
The testator must be at least 16 years old.
The will must be in writing, signed by the testator, and witnessed by at least two others who also sign the will.
The Act allows for exceptions to these formalities in certain circumstances.
Effect of Marriage and Relationships
Part 4 of WESA explains how different relationships can impact a will:
A will is not automatically revoked or changed by marriage.
Spouses can leave their property to each other.
Separation can affect the distribution of assets, but divorce does not automatically revoke a will.
Revoking a Will
This part outlines the ways a will can be revoked:
By creating a new will that states it revokes all previous wills.
By a written declaration with the intention to revoke the will.
By destruction of the will by the testator or someone else in their presence and by their direction.
Interpretation of Wills
Part 6 provides guidance for interpreting a will. It includes rules on dealing with issues like uncertainty in a will's language and changes in the names of organizations or beneficiaries mentioned in the will.
Persons Who May Inherit or Make a Will
This section details who may make a will or inherit under one. It reiterates that the testator must be at least 16 years of age and that any person, regardless of age, may be a beneficiary.
Survival and Presumption of Death
Part 8 discusses the rules about survival and presumption of death:
A beneficiary must survive the testator by five days to inherit.
The court can declare a person presumed dead if they have been missing under circumstances of peril or have been absent for at least five years.
This part introduces the concept of multiple wills and their advantages, such as the ability to reduce probate fees by having a separate will for assets that don't require probate.
Administration of Estates
Part 10 details the rules and responsibilities for administering an estate:
It sets out the process for applying for probate or administration.
It establishes the powers and duties of personal representatives.
It outlines the process of dealing with debts and distributing the estate.
The final section deals with the rules that apply if a person dies without a will. It provides a hierarchy for distributing the deceased's estate, starting with the spouse and children, and moving to more distant relatives if necessary.
In conclusion, understanding WESA is crucial for residents of British Columbia as it provides the legal framework for making a will, handling an estate, and dealing with situations where someone dies without a will. While it may seem complex, getting to grips with its key elements will empower you to take control of your estate planning.
As always, when dealing with legal matters, it's wise to seek professional advice to ensure you're making the best decisions for your unique situation.
(Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog post is for general informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal advice. Always consult with a professional for legal advice.)