This article looks at why recently introduced legislation in British Columbia makes it so important to draft a will.
Legislation that came into force last year brings sweeping changes to estate law
Last year the Wills, Estates and Succession Act (WESA) came into force in British Columbia, significantly changing the way wills are interpreted and estates are distributed in the province, according to the Globe and Mail. People who already have a will may be wondering if they need to draft a new will in response to the new laws, while those without a will may be concerned about how their estates will be impacted if they die intestate (that is, without a will). Because of the sweeping nature of the changes brought forward by WESA, it is more important than ever for British Columbians to make sure they have a valid will in place to protect their estates and wishes.
The need for a will
For people who have a will already, it is important to note that WESA does not make that will invalid. However, existing wills will be interpreted by the courts according to WESA and not by the old laws, meaning that some existing wills could potentially conflict with the new law.
Those who don’t have a will already should take advantage of WESA’s introduction to get a will drafted as soon as possible. Intestate succession rules in particular have changed dramatically under WESA. For example, under the old laws the estate of a deceased person would pass on to the closest next of kin, regardless of how distant that relationship may have been. Under WESA, however, intestate succession is limited to the fourth degree of relationship, after which the estate will go to the provincial government.
What counts as a will?
According to the Vancouver Sun, the biggest – and most controversial – change introduced by WESA is Section 58. Section 58 dramatically broadens what the court can consider to be a valid will. Everything from recorded messages, unsigned wills, emails, or handwritten notes could potentially be considered to have the same legal force as a will by a court.
Although such a change may sound frightening and prone to abuse, as the Globe and Mail points out, for a court to accept such informal evidence there will have to be proof of the will maker’s intention in such documents. Additionally, a court application will have to be made to “cure” an invalid will through an informal document, which will increase the cost of administering an estate. That increased cost should also provide further impetus for people to ensure they have a valid will in place now.
Drafting a will
With WESA’s dramatic changes now in force, people in British Columbia need to make sure they either draft a new will or have an estate lawyer review their existing will to make sure it doesn’t conflict with the new laws. An experienced estate lawyer can assist anybody who has concerns or questions about estate planning and help ensure that their wishes and their family’s future are protected.
Keywords: Legislation, sweeping changes, estate law, Estates and Succession Act (WESA), British Columbians, provincial government, Vancouver Sun, handwritten notes