Q. What is a will?
A will is a legal document that allow you as the testator (person executing the will) to “speak after death” with respect to your assets. A will allows you to make your wishes clear regarding the distribution of your money, property, investments, and personal belongings (otherwise known as your “estate”).
In a will, you name a person or company to be your executor or personal representative. The executor is responsible for gathering up your assets, paying your debts, and dividing your estate among your “beneficiaries”, or the people you have named in your will to have a share in your estate.
Q. When do I need a will?
Many of our clients ask us this question. If you are an adult who owns assets, has a spouse, or has children you should have a will. Though it is unpleasant to think about what should happen if you die, having a will safeguards you and ensures that your wishes are met regarding your money and property (your “estate”). Spending the money and time with a lawyer to create a will can save your spouse or children much time, money, and effort in the future.
Q. What if I die without a will?
If you die without a will, your property will be divided according to B.C. law. You will also give up the right to appoint a guardian to any children in your care. Also, tax costs and the costs of probating and administering your estate will increase.
If you die without a will, BC’s Wills, Estates and Succession Act (WESA) dictates how your estate will be divided. It sets out the following rules:
- If you have a spouse and no children, your estate passes to your spouse.
- If you have a spouse and children, then what passes depends on whether the children are also your spouse’s children. If so, your spouse gets the first $300,000 value of your estate. If not, your spouse gets the first $150,000 value of your estate. Then one half of the balance of your estate goes to your spouse. The other half is divided among your children. Your spouse has the right to acquire the family home from your estate as part of his/her share.
- If you have more than one spouse (which is possible under WESA, and described later in this script), they share the spouse’s share equally (unless they agree or a court decides differently).
- If you have no spouse, then your estate is divided among your children, divided among them equally.
- If you have no spouse and no children, then your estate goes to your parents. If your parents aren’t alive, it goes to your brothers and sisters, divided among them equally.
- There are further rules if you have no spouse or children, and your parents and siblings aren’t alive.
Q. Why do I need a lawyer to create a will?
Since your will is a binding legal document, you should have your will prepared professionally by a lawyer. An experienced lawyer has a good understanding of property ownership rules and the laws around wills, and can help you with estate planning to save money for your beneficiaries. Your lawyer can ensure that your will is valid, following the formalities required by law for the creation of wills.
If you have questions, please call our office at (604) 986-2522 and we would be happy to help you.