- Do you own any property?
- Do you have bank accounts or investments in your name alone?
- Do you have minor children (under 19 years of age)?
- Do have any dependents whom you support (e.g. elderly parents, disabled siblings, or children)?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should probably have a will. Don’t wait until you are older or you have more assets. The ones you leave behind will have a much easier time of it if you have a will. Financial institutions in particular have become more cautious about letting surviving family members access or deal with a deceased’s bank accounts. Their first step is often to freeze these accounts until the executor of the will arrives with the Grant of Probate (a document provided by the court after the executor has filed an application for probate of the will).
Without a will, this process requires someone, usually one or two of the deceased’s family members to file an application with the court to be appointed as the administrator of the estate. If there are no suitable family members to step in, the BC Public Guardian and Trustee may step in to take over administration of the estate. The costs incurred by the PGT are charged to, and therefore reduce, the amount of the estate. Applying to court to be appointed the administrator of an estate is often a time-consuming process which holds up payment of debts and distribution of assets to the beneficiaries.
When there is no will, the rules of intestacy will determine who are to be the beneficiaries. No decisions are involved and it may be that there is someone who will inherit part of the estate who the deceased did not want to share in his or her estate. If this is a concern for you, you need a will in order to clearly set out who you intend to benefit and who is being left out and why (if a spouse or a child).
If you are married, you may not need a will if all of your assets are in joint names so that, upon your death, your spouse will become the sole owner of those assets as the survivor. Sometimes there are tax reasons for not having a will but if this is something you wish to consider, you should talk to a tax lawyer or accountant to make sure it is the right step for you.
If you have questions about wills or the probate/administration process, contact us.