Evolution of Wills & Estates Law
The landscape of Wills and Estates Law in British Columbia is undergoing transformative changes. With the introduction of the Wills Estate and Succession Act (WESA) effective from March 31, 2014, the rules governing estate administration in BC have been revamped. Here's what you need to know:
- Marriage and Existing Wills: Unlike the past where marriage would nullify an existing will, WESA ensures that marriage doesn't invalidate a pre-existing will.
- Beneficiary Witnessing: Previously, if beneficiaries witnessed a will, they would forfeit their inheritance. WESA provides courts the flexibility to override this, allowing witnessing beneficiaries to inherit under specific conditions.
- Estate Distribution without a Will: The new act brings significant changes to intestacy rules. Now, spouses are entitled to a larger initial share (up to $300,000, a significant increase from the earlier $65,000). The life estate concept, which allowed a surviving spouse to occupy the family home for life, has been replaced. Instead, a mechanism is in place enabling the surviving spouse to purchase the home, with provisions to continue occupancy under certain financial conditions.
- Will Formalities: WESA grants courts the authority to recognize wills that might not meet every traditional requirement. However, to avoid legal complications and expenses, it's still recommended to have a will that's meticulously drafted and executed.
- Age Requirements: The new act allows individuals as young as 16 to create a will.
- Wills Variation: While the essence of wills variation remains unchanged, the timeframe for filing a wills variation action has been slightly adjusted from 6 months to 180 days post the grant of probate issuance. This subtle shift is crucial, especially for those who might delay their wills variation actions.
The changes brought about by WESA are comprehensive. If you're pondering over how these alterations might affect your estate planning or existing will, Infinity Law's team of Wills and Estates experts in British Columbia is here to guide you. Don't leave your legacy to chance; reach out to us today.