Wills & Estates
Effective March 31, 2014, the Wills, Estates and Succession Act came into effect, modernizing estate law in B.C. and making probate easier for the public to use and understand. The new act includes new processes and new forms.
If you are administering an estate for a person for whom probate was not concluded prior to March 31, 2014 learn more (PDF) about how you may be affected.
About Probate and Estate Administration
The need for probate is determined by the policy of the agency or financial institution which holds an asset which is part of an estate. The agency may require that an executor apply for a representation grant in order to be formally recognized as the official representative of the deceased’s estate. The executor should contact the institution directly to determine if it is necessary to apply for a representation grant.
A person may also apply to be named an administrator when the deceased has died intestate (without leaving a valid will), or, if there is a valid will, when:
- The testator did not name an executor
- The executor has died since the will was made and no alternate executor was named
- The executor has renounced the right to apply to the court for probate
A grant of administration of the estate of the deceased person, with or without will, may then be issued by the court, appointing the applicant to act as administrator.
While the responsibilities of an executor or administrator may vary as needed, the basic duties include:
- Completing an inventory and a valuation of all assets and debts
- Gathering names and addresses of all beneficiaries and next-of-kin
- Cancelling subscriptions and charge cards, redirecting mail and winding up all other personal matters
- Taking control of all assets, including the transfer of ownership registrations and the collection of any debts owed to the estate
- Paying all valid or proven debts left to the estate (the executor or administrator may be held personally liable for these debts if a valid creditor remains unpaid after the distribution of the estate)
- Filing tax returns for the deceased and for the estate
- Selling assets as necessary and distributing the estate
- Preparing and obtaining approval from the beneficiaries, heirs-at-law or the court for accounts showing assets, receipts, disbursements, and distribution of the estate
There is no requirement to have a lawyer in order to apply for a representation grant but, if you intend to do so yourself, you will need to be well organized and prepared to do a lot of paperwork. You may wish to buy a self-help guidebook to assist you.
If you hire a lawyer to assist you, legal fees are considered a proper expense and (subject to the approval of the beneficiaries, heirs-at-law or the court) may be paid out of the estate funds.
The services of a lawyer are recommended when questions about the validity or interpretation of a will arise, and an application to court becomes necessary.
The Probate Registry
Each Supreme Court registry in B.C. has a Probate Division to receive, verify and process applications for representation grants. An application for a representation grant may be made in any Supreme Court registry.
An applicant for a representation grant applies to the court to prove a will by confirming it as valid under the laws of British Columbia. If there is no valid will, an application may be made for administration without a will or a personal representative may apply to have a grant that has been issued in a jurisdiction other than British Columbia recognized here.
Probate registries do not provide forms, give legal advice or assist in preparing wills, applications or affidavits. Forms can be completed electronically and then printed or printed and completed by hand. The forms are available on the Ministry of Justice website.
Additional Information and Assistance
The following sources can provide additional information. Most can assist you in preparing a will or an application to court for a representation grant.
- Notaries public
- Self-help guide books, available online or at retail outlets
- in Vancouver: 604 687-4680
- or outside Vancouver: 1-800-565-5297 toll-free
Please note: This site provides general information only. It is not a legal document and does not contain legal advice. The relevant statutes and regulations should be consulted for all purposes of interpreting and applying the law.