When to Write a Will in BC
Will & Estate Planning in Vancouver BC
When to Write a Will
Time and time again I hear from friends and colleagues “I don’t have a will …. But do I even need one?” The short answer is YES! Having a will drawn up doesn’t necessarily take much time or money, yet people tend to put off doing it. They’re unsure whether they really need one, and they think it will cost too much money.
Important Circumstances for Writing a Will
I would first like to clarify the circumstances in which you should probably have a will drafted:
- You are a parent to a child or children, or are about to have your first child;
- You are married or about to get married;
- You are in a serious, committed relationship;
- You are in a relationship with a person who could be considered a second spouse;
- You have pets;
- You have some assets and would like to have a say in how those assets would be divided on your death;
- You want to minimize any costs or taxes payable on your death;
- You own a business or are entering into a business or partnership;
- You are about to leave on a trip or vacation;
- You expect to inherit money over the coming months or years;
- You wish to have a say in whether you are buried or cremated;
- You wish to donate your organs or donate your body to science;
Not Drafting a Will
If you fail to draft a will prior to your death, the law decides who will look after your children (if there is no surviving spouse), who will take your pets, how your estate is divided and who the beneficiaries are, how your business is dealt with, and how your remains are dealt with.
When a person dies intestate (without a will) the court will appoint an ‘administrator’ to administer the estate – that is to make key decisions and facilitate key processes with respect to your estate (ie. pay taxes and debts and distribute the estate, arrange the handling of your remains, wind-up businesses, relocate pets). If your spouse is unwilling or unable to act as the administrator, then your relatives can apply. If you have no relatives or they are unwilling or unable to act, then other friends or professionals (lawyers, accountants) may apply.
What Happens to Your Assets
With respect to your assets, there are some basic provisions to be aware of in the BC Wills, Estates and Succession Act:
- If you are survived by a spouse, but no descendants (ie. children, grandchildren), then your entire estate goes to your spouse (s. 20)
- If you are survived by a spouse and descendants, your spouse gets the household furnishings and a preferential share of your estate, either
- $300,000 if all of the descendants are of the deceased and spouse, or
- $150,000 if not all of the descendants are of the deceased and spouse.
- Additionally, if the net value of the estate is worth less than spouse’s preferential share, then the spouse gets the entire estate. If the net value of the estate is worth greater than or equal to the spouse’s preferential share, the extra value is divided 50/50 between the spouse and descendants
- If you are not survived by a spouse, but you have descendants or relatives, then your estate goes first to the descendants.
- If there are no descendants, your estate first goes to your parents in equal shares, or to your surviving parent.
- If your parents have predeceased you, then your estate goes to the descendants of your parents (your siblings)
- If you have no siblings, then your estate passes to your grandparents or their descendants
- If your estate is to be distributed to any descendants, there is a legal process for determining who will receive and in what proportion and it depends on the generation nearest to you that contains a surviving descendant.
- There are provisions to determine how the spousal home is dealt with if you are survived by a spouse
What Happens to Your Children
Where children are involved and both parents are deceased, the Public Guardian and Trustee of BC will work with other ministries to make sure children are properly looked after, both physically and financially, including holding the child’s share in trust for them until they turn 19.
What Happens if You Become Incapacitated
Additionally, there are other legal tools or contracts that can be drafted to dictate your wishes with respect to your health, legal, personal and financial affairs should you become incapacitated.
Finding a Will & Estate Planning Lawyer in Vancouver B.C.
If you find yourself in one or more of the circumstances listed above, now is the right time to draft a will. The Kushner Law Group can assist you in drafting a will; and, as experienced Will and Estate Litigation lawyers, we can also assist our clients in achieving just results through both negotiation and litigation.