The Wills, Estates and Succession Act

March 15, 2014

Neil Wyper

For the first time in 85 years, the laws in BC which govern wills and estates are changing. Known as WESA, the new Wills, Estates and Succession Act replaces four old statutes and modifies two others. In many ways, the changes are a housekeeping exercise, which streamlines the old statutes.

For people who die without wills, WESA changes the distribution of assets. Now, a surviving spouse will receive the first $300,000 of the deceased’s estate. Of the rest of the estate:

  1. the surviving spouse will receive half; and
  2. all the deceased’s children share the other half.

Also, when people die without wills, a new distribution scheme determines who receives what. Under this new scheme, descendants of the nearest common ancestor always take before descendants of a more distant ancestor. Also, no share of the estate goes to anyone further removed than first cousins; instead, the estate goes to the government.

WESA also affects people who have wills. Any will created before WESA comes into effect on March 31, 2014 will still be valid. WESA gives the Courts new discretion to give meaning to the wishes of a will-maker, even if those wishes were not expressed in a will. For example, emails to a lawyer may now be evidence of a will-maker’s intent and have the effect of being part of a will. Courts may now exercise more discretion when a will-maker modifies his will without proper execution, and may give effect to those new wishes.

To discuss your situation, or to have me review your will, please contact me.