I Want to Write a Will
|Alert: Extensive changes to the law in BC relating to wills came into force on March 31, 2014. The Ministry of Justice provides answers to common questions on the new law, called the Wills, Estates and Succession Act (WESA).|
A will is a legal document that takes effect upon your death. The main purpose of a will is to say who will get your property (land and personal possessions) when you die. If you are the sole guardian of a child or children, a will can be used to name a new guardian at the time of your death.
A will should also appoint an executor — a person who will ensure your debts are paid, your property is protected and your wishes are carried out.
- Make a list of your property (land, vehicles and other possessions).
- Decide who you want as an executor of the will. You should also consider naming an alternate in case your first choice is unable to act as executor or complete the job.
- Speak to a lawyer or get a self-help guide. A good one is the Write Your Legal Will in 3 Easy Steps from the Self-Counsel Press. It is available at most Service BC (Government Agent) offices and many bookstores and public libraries. The People's Law School has an excellent online booklet, Writing Your Will.
|The law about wills and estates can be quite complicated, so it is always best to get advice from a lawyer or notary about your will. However, if you can’t get advice from a lawyer, it is better to write a will using a self-help guide than to not have a will at all.|
What happens next
Your will needs to be witnessed by two or more persons who are age 19 or older. You should not have your will witnessed by a person you are giving a gift to under it, or his or her spouse. (Ordinarily, a gift to a witness or his or her spouse is invalid, in which case the person you intend to benefit will lose the gift.) You must sign your will at its end in front of the witnesses, who must be present at the same time. The witnesses must also sign your will as witnesses in front of you and in front of each other.
You need to store the original in a place where it will be safe. It is a good idea to let your executor know where you will be storing your will. You may also wish to give your executor a copy of it.
Finally, you should file a Wills Notice with the BC Vital Statistics Agency. The form can be picked up at most Service BC (Government Agent) offices or completed online at Vital Statistics Agency Application Forms; scroll down to "Wills" and click on "Application for Filing a Wills Notice." The fee is $17. When you die, your executor is required to do a search for any wills notices in the Vital Statistics Registry.
Where to get help
See the Resource List in this Guide for a list of helpful resources. Your best bets are:
- Vital Statistics Agency.
- Access Pro Bono, Lawyer Referral Service, and private bar lawyers.
- The Legal Services Society publication "Writing Your Own Will: A Guide for First Nations People Living On Reserve" and the Clicklaw common question "Is a will different for people who live on reserve?" for additional resources about wills for Aboriginal people.
- Clicklaw for more resources under the common question "How do I make a will?"
Before meeting with a lawyer or advocate, complete the form Preparing for Your Interview included in this Guide. Make sure you bring copies of all documents relating to your case.
|The law about wills is somewhat different if you are a registered Indian ordinarily resident on an Indian reserve. You can write a holographic will (one that does not require witnesses); however this will may not be legal if you do not reside on reserve at the time of your death. There are also restrictions under the Indian Act about to whom you can leave your land on reserve. The procedure for probating a will or administering an estate is also different. An Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada Estates Officer can provide information about estates on reserve. Toll-free: 1-888-917-9977.|
|This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Stan Rule, March 2017.|
|Legal Help for British Columbians © Cliff Thorstenson and Courthouse Libraries BC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada Licence.|
Something which can be owned. See "chattels" and "real property."
Real property; a parcel of real property and the buildings upon it. See also "chattel," "ownership," and "possession."
The person responsible for carrying out the instructions in a will and wrapping up a deceased person's estate and debts. The lovely feminine form of the word is "executrix," though the masculine form is commonly applied to executrices and executors both. See "estate," "testator," and "will."
Intentionally doing a thing; a law passed by a government, also called "legislation" or a "statute." See "regulations."
A person licensed to practice law in a particular jurisdiction. See "barrister and solicitor."
A voluntary transfer of property from one person to another, without expectation of payment or reward. Gifts to one spouse do not usually qualify as family property, and are excluded from the pool of property to be divided. See "donee," "donor," "excluded property," and "family property."
Under the Divorce Act, either of two people who are married to one another, whether of the same or opposite genders. Under the Family Law Act, married spouses, unmarried parties who have lived together in a marriage-like relationship for at least two years, and, for all purposes of the act other than the division of property or debt, unmarried parties who have lived together for less than two years but have had a child together. See "marriage" and "marriage-like relationship."
A person with direct, personal knowledge of facts and events; a person giving oral evidence in court on oath or affirmation as to the truth of the evidence given. See "affirm," "evidence," "oath," and "opinion evidence."
A lawyer or a person other than a lawyer who helps clients with legal issues; to argue a position on behalf of a client.
In law, a court proceeding; a lawsuit; an action; a cause of action; a claim. Also the historic decisions of the court. See "action," "case law, " "court proceeding," and "precedent."
In law, all of the personal property and real property that a person owns or in which they have an interest, usually in connection with the prospect or event of the person's death.