What happens to your assets (estate) if you die without a will in BC?
“I know and I will get around to it”. That is a common phrase I hear from many of our clients about getting their will done. About ½ of Canadians have wills and ½ don’t (or have out-of-date wills). With that in mind, I thought this information would be valuable.
There are some assets that aren’t covered by someone’s will. These include life insurance or registered accounts i.e. RRSPs, and RRIFs that have a beneficiary. As well as assets that are jointly owned ie. bank accounts, real estate, or investment accounts.
Everything else would be governed by your will, so if you don’t have one what happens and who decides? We will discuss what happens to your assets.
Your will provides the instructions for how your assets/ estate should be administered and divided among your beneficiaries.
When you die without a will in BC, you are said to have died ‘Intestate’. Without a will and no clear directions on how the estate should be divided intestacy laws are applied using the Wills, Estate and Succession Act or WESA which are:
- If the deceased leaves a spouse and no children or descendants, the spouse receives the entire estate.
- If the deceased leaves a spouse and children (all of whom are children of the spouse), the spouse receives the first $300,000 and half of the remaining estate. The other half of the remaining estate is divided among the children.
- If the deceased leaves a spouse and children, some of whom are not the children of the spouse, the spouse receives the first $150,000 and half of the remaining estate which is then divided among the children.
- Surviving spouses do not automatically have an interest in the spousal home. Rather they have the option to buy the home.
- If the deceased leaves no spouse, then the estate is divided among the children equally.
- If the deceased had no spouse or children then the estate is passed onto the other family members such as parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, etc.
- If no one qualifies to receive the estate under the rules, the estate goes to the government.
Looking at the above options are you comfortable with those that pertain to you?
In the next newsletter, we will discuss the role of the executor and what happens if you don’t have one.
Please consult with a lawyer if you have questions about intestate estates or having a will done.