After a Death: Manage Wills & Estates

A will is a legal document left by someone who has died. It lets the court know what to do with that person’s estate. An executor or administrator carries out the instructions of the will.

This guide does not replace the advice of a lawyer.

With a Will 

How do I carry out the will?

A will is a legal document that explains a person’s wishes for after they die. These wishes might include what to do with their money and what they own. You can hire a lawyer if you have questions about carrying out the will or need advice.

Wills usually name an executor, who is the person who carries out the instructions of the will.

How do I know if a will is valid? 

To see if a will is valid, you need to probate a will. Probate is the process to check if a will is real and left by the person who died.

Agencies and financial institutions that hold assets in an estate sometimes require that a will be probated. Seek legal advice if unsure whether a will must be probated.

If the will is probated, you will need to submit a Search of Wills Notice. A Search of Wills Notice can also tell you where the will is.

Who is the executor or administrator, and what do they do?

The executor or administrator is the person or one of the people responsible for carrying out the instructions in the will.

  • See Wills & Estates for responsibilities of the executor or administrator

What do I do if there is no executor?  

You can apply to be an administrator if the person who died left a will, but 

  • Did not name an executor 
  • The executor named in the will is unable or unwilling to act

See When There’s No Will or Executor

If there is no one eligible to apply to be an administrator, the Public Guardian and Trustee of British Columbia may administer the estate.

What do I do if there is a dispute about who is responsible for the will and estate?

The executor named in the will can be proven with a representation grant or estate grant. You can apply for this grant in any B.C. Supreme Court registry.

If there’s still a dispute, you may need to hire a lawyer.

No Will

What do I do if there is no will? 

If the person who died did not leave a will, you can apply to be an administrator.

If the person who died did not leave a will and there is no one eligible to be an administrator

Learn more about When Someone Dies Without a Will – Dial A Law

Who do I contact if the person who died was legally responsible for children or an adult and there is no guardian appointed?

If someone dies without a will, the court will need to appoint a guardian if the deceased leaves behind children under 19 and the other parent isn’t alive or able to provide care. If no guardian is appointed, the Public Guardian & Trustee of British Columbia and Ministry of Children and Family Development will become the children's guardians.

With a will, a person can appoint a guardian to look after any young children they leave behind after they die.


After a Death Checklist (PDF, 3.8MB)

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