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Intestacy: Don’t Leave Your Loved Ones in Limbo

If you die without a will, you die ‘intestate’…and there are consequences.

‘INTESTATE’… Sounds a bit scary. Like how you’d feel if you didn’t know there was a big math exam today, you didn’t study and now you’re anxious and really, really annoyed as you stare at the paper on your desk and wonder how you’re going to fill up all the empty white spaces.

While most adults no longer have to worry about big, scary math exams, many should actually be a bit anxious about the possibility of dying intestate. Let’s explore the potential consequences and shed light on the benefits of having a well-crafted will.


The Division of Your Estate Without a Will

If there is no valid Will, the distribution of your estate is driven by the laws of intestacy. This means that legislation controls how your assets will be divided, which probably does not align with your intentions. In British Columbia, the Wills, Estates and Succession Act (WESA) outlines the rules for intestate succession.

Who gets what?

In B.C., intestate distribution follows a hierarchy that emphasizes a spouse and any children, with differences depending on whether you’ve had children with your current or a previous partner. If you had no spouse and no children, your estate passes to your closest living relatives. If there are no qualifying relatives, your estate goes to the Provincial government (oh my!)

You do not choose the hierarchy, you do not choose how you want to benefit others… dying without a Will takes those choices out of your hands.

  • For example, although you want your spouse to get the bulk of your estate, you also want to give your mom a nice cash gift, so she can finally go on that world tour she’s been dreaming about.
  • But without having that gift in a Will, your mom is not entitled to receive anything at all.
  • Unless your spouse decides to be gratuitously generous to mom (and considering one of them stormed out of the house at the last Thanksgiving dinner, that seems unlikely…) mom’s globe-trotting dreams will be dashed and she’ll forever be disappointed in you.
  • DON’T disappoint your mom!
  • DO some proper planning to give effect to your wishes!


Challenges Arising Without a Will

When you die intestate, you’re not only leaving the distribution of your estate up to chance, but you’re also placing additional burdens on your loved ones.

Who’s in Charge?

If there is no Will, there is no one named as your executor and someone has to step forward to be appointed by the court as the estate administrator. This can present various challenges, including:

  • Difficulty in making cremation or burial arrangements, as there must be an authorized person for these.
  • Disagreements about who should be applying as administrator. While there is (again) a legislated hierarchy about who has priority, some of the categories still require consent from others.
  • More difficulty in obtaining estate information from third parties (for example, bank account details), as they always want assurances they are dealing with the proper person before giving out confidential information.


The Advantage of Having a Will

Having a valid will provides you with the power to control the destiny of your assets and ensures that your loved ones are provided for according to your wishes. Here are a few reasons why having a will is so important:

  1. Tailored Distribution: You can specify exactly how you want your assets distributed, including personal items, real estate, investments, and more.
  2. Guardianship: If you have minor children, you can designate a guardian to take care of them in the event of your passing.
  3. Avoiding Conflicts: A well-defined will can help prevent disputes among family members regarding the division of assets.
  4. Charitable Giving: You can allocate a portion of your estate to charitable organizations that are close to your heart.


Make a Choice

Dying intestate – the ‘do nothing’ choice – could be the worst one for your unique set of circumstances. Take control of your estate’s future by crafting a comprehensive will that reflects your wishes and safeguards your loved ones. Our experienced team at Ratcliff LLP is here to guide you through the estate planning process, ensuring that your assets are distributed according to your desires and minimizing the burdens on your family.

If you’d like to know more about your choices, we’re here to assist you with your personal legal planning, by injecting clarity into your present situation and helping you anticipate the future.



* This information is for general illustration only and is not legal advice.

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Key Contacts
Lesley Midzain - Estates Lawyer