Wills and Estates Law is Changing in a BIG Way!
The law of wills and estates in British Columbia is changing in a BIG way. The Wills Estate and Succession Act (“WESA”) comes into force on March 31, 2014. On and after this date, there will be sweeping changes to the existing regime and rules around estates and their administration in BC. Of particular note:
- Traditionally, marriage invalidated an existing will. Under WESA, marriage will not invalidate an existing will;
- Currently, beneficiaries invalidate their inheritance when they witness a will. Under WESA, Courts will have discretion to waive this rule and allow the witnessing beneficiary to take under the will (in certain circumstances);
- The regime for distribution of an estate without a Will (intestacy) is changing significantly. A spouse will be given more money off the top (up to $300,000 as opposed to the previous $65,000) and there is no longer a life estate in the family home. Instead, of the life estate (ability to occupy the family home until that person dies), there is a system in place that will allow the surviving spouse to buy the home. There are provisions that do allow the surviving spouse to continue to occupy the home if purchasing of the home would cause “significant financial hardship”;
- Under WESA, Courts can accept wills that do not meet all the formal will requirements. At present, the Court has almost no discretion to pass a will that does not meet the formalities. That said, even under the new law, it is advisable to have a properly drafted and executed will to otherwise save expensive Court time and stress; and
- Someone as young as 16 can make a will.
These are just some of the many changes to the law that WESA will usher in. It should be noted that wills variation will largely remain the same. However, the limitation date for filing a wills variation action will change from 6 months to 180 days after the issuance of the grant of probate. This may seem like a minor change, however, the few days shaved off this limitation period can matter significantly for those leaving their wills variation to the last moment. If you miss this limitation by even a day, you may be forever barred from bringing forward such a claim.
If you are concerned with how WESA will impact your will, estate, or estate planning, do not hesitate to contact your lawyer to discuss.