New Probate and Administration Proceedure in BC

Heads up Executors, there’s a new law in town.

If you are in charge of looking after the estate of someone who has recently died in British Columbia (or even someone who died a while ago, but the estate has not yet been administered) here is what you need to know.

The Wills, Estates and Succession Act of British Columbia (WESA) is coming into effect March 31, 2014.  Along with it, the Rules of Court are changing.  The WESA sets out how to get a Representation Grant (probate, with a Will, administration without a Will), and the Rules of Court provide the forms that must be used.

The WESA also has new provisions for small estates, but those won’t come into effect yet.

The WESA makes significant changes about who gets notice, and when notice must be given.  For example, whereas previously the applicant could mail the notices to the beneficiaries on the same day she filed the application for probate, there is now a requirement that notices be sent 21 days prior to filing.  Other significant changes include the fact that the applicant for administration no longer needs to clear off other potential administrators.  The presumption of the need for a bond is also gone, unless there are beneficiaries who are minor children or mentally incompetent.

Anyone who has recently tried to pry information out of a financial institution in order to be able to apply for a Representation Grant will be pleased to know that financial institutions (eg, banks) now have 30 days to comply.  If they don’t, the applicant can get a court order for the information, and costs of the application.

The dispute process has also changed significantly.  For example, a caveat is now called a Dispute Notice, and any and all actions in connection with the estate will be under the same court file.  Previously if someone wanted to sue in an estate matter, they would have to start a new action, instead of just proceeding under the probate application.  That includes disputes about the validity of the will, applications for Wills Variation, and claims against the estate under Family Law.

If the application is filed by March 31, 2014, then the old forms will apply;  if after March 31, then the new forms must be used.

Most of the forms now have “check boxes”, which is meant to make it easier for non-lawyers to file applications.  Looking at these form, though, they are still not easy to navigate, and we expect that most people without legal training in the area of wills and estates will want the guidance of someone who does have such expertise.

If you need to apply for a Representation Grant (either probate or administration) and have questions or concerns about these coming changes, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

About Maria Holman

I am a lawyer with over 28 years of experience in drawing up wills, trusts and estate plans, helping clients with probate and estate administrations and advising business owners and families about planning for the future. You can find me at Webster Hudson & Coombe LLP in Vancouver, BC
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