What is a Will? What Happens if You Don’t Have One?

A Will is a legal document that takes effect upon your death. The main purpose of a Will is to say who will get your property (land and personal possessions) when you die. It can appoint a new guardian for your children if you have any, as well as appoint a chosen executor who will ensure your debts are paid, your property is protected, and your wishes are carried out.

No Will, No Way?

Dying without a Will is referred to as “dying intestate”. What happens if you die intestate? Contrary to popular belief, the government is not automatically entitled to your estate in this case.

Without a Will, there is no executor so someone is needed to administer your estate. In British Columbia, the Wills, Estates and Succession Act (WESA) determines how your assets are to be divided and who administers your estate for you.

According to WESA, the distribution rules are as follows:

  • If you have a spouse but no descendants:
    • your estate will be distributed solely to your spouse
  • If you have a spouse and descendants:
    • household furnishings and a “preferential share” of your estate will go to your spouse
  • If you have descendants or relatives but no spouse:
    • Your estate will be distributed to your descendants

(In this context, a “spouse” is defined as someone you are married to, or with whom you have been living in a marriage-like relationship for at least 2 years.)

Without a Will, you lose control over who gets your estate when you die, and you give up the right to appoint a guardian of your choice for any young children you may have. Your family may also have to deal with delays, extra expenses, and inconvenience.

To make sure your wishes are clearly and precisely communicated, it is important to make a Will. With a Will, you can decide how to have your property and assets distributed and by whom when you die instead of having them distributed according to BC law. Although you can use a kit to write your own Will, it’s a good idea to get help from a lawyer to make sure your Will is legal. If your Will isn’t considered legal, it can create a lot of problems for your heirs.

If you or a loved one is in need of advice regarding Wills or wish to have assistance in making one, consult Vancouver and Burnaby wills & estates lawyer Andrew Rebane at Resolutions Law Corporation, Burnaby, British Columbia at andrew@resolutionslawcorp.com or 778-372-7107.