The legal probate process was established to make sure a person’s will is genuine and that the executor has the authority to act on behalf of the estate of the deceased.
But not all probate processes are the same around the world, or even across Canada, for that matter. So we’ve written this article as a comprehensive guide on the probate process in British Columbia in particular.
- While not all estates in British Columbia need probate, it is usually required for estates that are valued at more than $25,000 and/or involve solely or jointly held real estate, property, or assets held by financial institutions, depending on how the title to property is held. If the value of the funds held is under $25,000, some financial institutions may allow you to transfer assets without probate. However, this is done solely at their discretion.
- To apply for probate in British Columbia, you must submit a probate application which includes court forms, a copy of the will if the deceased made one, a certificate of search of will registry, and more.
- Estates valued at more than $25,000 will incur both a filing fee and a probate fee during the probate application process. An estate's value also influences additional legal fees and taxes when it is assessed.
- If a probate application is approved when there is a will, a Grant of Probate will be granted, allowing the deceased’s assets to be distributed and the estate to be settled. Probate applications can also be rejected, and this is most frequently because of mistakes in the application forms.
What is Probate in British Columbia?
Probate is a legal process in which the courts of the province prove that a will is valid under BC laws. When the person who has passed away has a valid will, probate works to make sure their assets are distributed as they had wished in their will.
On the other hand, if a person passes away without a will, also known as passing away “intestate”, probate courts will also make sure the deceased’s assets are allocated properly.
While there are many similarities in the probate process across Canada, some provinces have unique requirements. In British Columbia, the probate process is overseen by the Supreme Court, and executors of estates must apply for probate through what is called a grant of probate If there is no will for the estate, applicants apply for a grant of administration instead.
These grants give the executor or administrator the authority to act on behalf of the estate and can be shown to anyone who holds assets of the estate, such as banks.
When is Probate Required in BC
Not all estates need probate, as the process largely depends on what type of estate assets are involved.
Estates containing real estate, shares, or financial accounts all owned solely by the testator will require probate. This is also generally the case if the estate has a value over $25,000.
How to Probate a Will in BC
The steps you’ll need to take to probate a will in BC will vary a bit depending on whether the person who passed away has a will or not.
Step 1: Notify All Relevant Parties
The Notice of Proposed Application in Relation to Estate (Form P1) form is a mandatory form for any probate application in BC, as any applicant for a grant of probate or administration must give notice of the proposed application to every person referred to in the will or who may be stakeholders in the estate.
This form must be completed and sent alongside a copy of the will to all relevant parties at least 21 days before you submit the probate application.
Step 2: Fill Out Probate Forms
All probate documents to submit in BC can be found on the government website, but there are so many of them it may initially seem overwhelming.
To break it down a bit, a typical probate application regarding an estate with a will includes at least the following forms:
- Submission of Estate Grant (Form P2) - A form which provides details about the grant application and should be filed in court after you’ve mailed the P1 form out and after you’ve waited at least 21 days.
- Affidavit of Application (Form P3 or Form P4) - A form that identifies you and your relationship to the person who has passed away. This form should be filed alongside the P2 form.
- Affidavit of Delivery (Form P9) - This document confirms that the P1 Preliminary Notice and a copy of the will were delivered to all necessary parties. This form should also be filed alongside the P2 form. A copy of the P1 form should be filed as well.
- Affidavit of assets and liabilities (Form P10 or P11) - This form tells the BC probate registry about the assets and liabilities of the person who has passed, information which the registry uses to calculate the probate fees that may need to be paid.
- The originally signed version of the will - If you don’t have the original, a legal copy works as well, though you will need to file evidence that confirms it’s a copy of the valid will. If possible, the original will is better to use, as copies may not always be accepted.
- Certificate from the Chief Executive Officer under the Vital Statistics Act (Certificate of Wills Search) - This certificate indicates the results of a search for a wills notice in the wills registry, filed by or on behalf of the deceased. This certificate is important because it confirms that there are no other Wills that supersede the one you have.
For an estate without a will, you’ll need to submit many of the same forms for a grant of administration as you would for a grant of probate, though one key difference is the P5 form is used instead of the P3 or P4 forms.
- Submission of Estate Grant (Form P2) - A form which provides details about the grant application and should be filed in court after you’ve mailed the P1 form out and have waited at least 21 days.
- Affidavit of the Applicant for Grant of Administration without will Annexed (Form P5) - This form identifies the applicant and their relationship to the deceased person and should be filed in court with the P2 form. What’s important about this form is that it lets the court understand your relationship to the person who has passed and your standing to administer their estate.
- Affidavit of Delivery (Form P9) - This document confirms that the P1 Preliminary Notice and a copy of the will were delivered to all necessary parties. This form should also be filed alongside the P2 form. A copy of the P1 form should be filed along with Form P9.
- Affidavit of assets and liabilities (Form P10 or P11) - This form tells the BC probate registry about the assets and liabilities of the person who has passed, which the registry uses to calculate the probate fees owing.
- Certificate from the Chief Executive Officer under the Vital Statistics Act (Certificate of Wills Search) - This certificate indicates the results of a search for a wills notice in the wills registry, filed by or on behalf of the deceased. It is important, as it confirms that there are no other Wills that supersede the one you have.
Step 3: File Your Application
Once you’ve completed your forms, you’ll need to submit them to the Supreme Court of BC through a probate registry, though you’ll want to make sure that you’ve made your own copies of the forms for your own reference before you submit them.
If the estate you are submitting your application for is valued at more than $25,000, this process comes with a filing fee of $200.
Step 4: Pay The Probate Fee
Probate fees are paid to the court based on the valuation of the estate. In BC, these fees are determined in the Probate Fees Act:
Fees accurate as of October 10th, 2023
Step 5: Probate Granted, Next Steps
After a grant of probate or grant of administration has been issued, you can then move forward with administering the estate.
If you’re the executor, the person who will help carry out the wishes of the deceased in their will, then there will be a variety of responsibilities ahead of you too. You can read our complete guide on executing a will in BC here.
And if the estate in question is too complex and you feel there are too many forms you may have to complete, you may want to consult a probate lawyer instead.
Probate in BC Checklist
We’ve created a free checklist you can use to help navigate through the probate process in BC.
This checklist goes through a typical application process and should be used as a guide only. We encourage you to explore the additional forms for probate as well to make sure your application best reflects your situation and the situation of the person who has passed away.
Other Frequently Asked Questions About Probate in BC
How long does probate take in BC?
The duration of the probate process depends largely on the complexity of the estate. Complex estates generally have more assets and liabilities to evaluate, which adds time to the 21-day minimum waiting period between submitting P1 forms and other forms to the courts.
In total, it generally takes two to three months from start to finish.
What happens after probate is granted in BC?
Once probate is granted, the estate can be settled by the executors or administrators.
- If a probate application is approved when there is a will, a Grant of Probate will be granted, allowing the deceased’s assets to be distributed and the estate to be settled.
- If no will is involved and the application is approved, the applicant will receive a Grant of Administration, which allows for the estate administration under the applicant.
- If a probate application is denied, the applicant will receive an explanation for why the rejection happened and can correct mistakes and resubmit if they want to.
How to avoid probate in BC
Not all wills need to be probated. If the estate is complex or has assets solely held by the testator, probate is required and so must be settled. If not, probate can be avoided.
Preparation Starts Early
When someone you know passes away, it can be hard to go through probate and estate processes while you are also grieving. Estate planning is an important aspect of streamlining the probate process, and can make a significant difference in the experience of your loved ones after you pass away.
That’s why Willful works to make your estate planning as seamless, accessible, and affordable as possible, all from the comfort of your own home.