The Government of British Columbia has been working over the past few years to overhaul succession planning legislation in an effort to modernize old laws.
The most recent Wills, Estates and Succession Act (WESA), which took effect March 31, 2014, presents some fairly significant changes to the former Wills Act.
What are the changes that come with WESA and how will these affect your will and future estate planning?
Well for starters if you don’t already have a will in place, it is more important than ever to do so. That’s because changes under this act could make it more difficult for your family and loved ones to access your estate if you haven’t properly planned for it.
The following are some of the general changes that came into effect with WESA:
- Anyone over the age of 16 can now make a will in BC.
- Before WESA, estate lawyers used to have to continue searching for a next of kin until someone was found (this brings to mind the plots of many Hollywood movies and novels). Now if no heir is found by the fourth degree of relationship to the deceased person, the estate reverts to the provincial government.
- The BC courts now have the authority to declare a document to be an effective will even if it doesn’t meet the formal requirements of a will, where the court believes the deceased person intended it that way. Potential such documents could include emails, DVDs and other recording, and pieces of paper. However, in cases like this a court application will be required and this will add to the cost of administering an estate.
- Previously if a witness to the signing of a will was also named as a beneficiary in the will, the gift became void. Under WESA the gift in the will is still considered void, but it is now possible to apply to the court to save the gift.
These are some of the general changes contained in the new legislation. An upcoming blog post will deal with the specifics of the new act as it applies to marriage, separation and spousal inheritance.