Why You Should Consider a Will

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This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Stephen Hsia in January 2019.

A will is a legal document that explains what you want done with your property after you die.

A will makes your wishes clear

A will helps ensure the things you own go to the people you want to have them. It gives you some control over what happens to your estate after you’re gone. Preparing a will lets you choose an executor. This is a person who carries out the instructions in the will. If you’re a parent, you can also appoint a guardian to care for any children under age 19 after your death.

A will helps those you leave behind

A will is a map for those you leave behind. Having a clear statement of your wishes helps your loved ones feel confident they’re carrying those wishes out. Knowing your intentions will save them time, stress, and money at a difficult time.

What happens when you die without a will

Without a will, your successors will effectively be left guessing about what you would have wanted. With no proof of your wishes, the law kicks in. Your property is divvied up according to rules set out in the Wills, Estates and Succession Act.

The law may not reflect your wishes about who you want to inherit your property. For example:

  • If you have a spouse but no children, your estate will pass to your spouse.
  • If you have a spouse and children — all of whom are also your spouse’s children — your spouse will get the first $300,000 of your estate and half of what’s left over. The other half will be divided equally among your children.
  • If you have no spouse or children, your estate will be distributed to descendents, parents, or other relatives. If no relatives can be found, the estate will go to the government.

If you die without a will, someone may need to apply to court to become administrator of the estate. Once approved, the administrator has the authority to distribute your assets. The administrator is often your spouse or adult child. If no one steps forward, the Public Guardian and Trustee may apply to become administrator.

You don’t have to prepare a will

Under the law, you don’t have to prepare a will. But it’s a good idea. Preparing a will helps ensure fairness, accuracy, and peace of mind all around. It makes sure your wishes are respected and your loved ones are taken care of.

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