A will is one of the most important documents you can have, yet many British Columbians have yet to check this off their to-do list. A study commissioned by Willful showed that 58% of British Columbians have not created a will, with that number growing to 90% for millennials.
Fortunately, getting a will in BC is much easier than you might think! We’ll cover the basics around what makes a will legal, plus answer all your burning questions around making a will in BC.
What Is A Last Will and Testament in BC?
First things first! What exactly is a will?
Your last will and testament is a legal document that outlines your wishes in the event of your death. In your will, you can make a plan to distribute your estate (including any assets you own, such as property, money, and other items). You’ll also name an executor in charge of wrapping up your estate, and a guardian for any minor children you have. You can also outline any funeral and burial wishes you may have.
You can think about your will like a blueprint for your family and loved-ones. It helps guide them through your wishes after you pass away.
What Makes A Will Legal In British Columbia?
You are not required to visit a lawyer to make a legal will in BC. However, there are some requirements that you do need to meet in order for your document to be legally-binding.
These are the general requirements for a legal will in British Columbia:
You must be of sound mind and over the age of 16 in BC (age of majority).
The will must be made by you - the testator or will-maker.
You must sign the document in the presence of two valid witnesses.
Your witnesses must also sign the last page of your will after you.
Your will must be signed in wet ink and stored as a physical copy (Only the original copy of your will is valid and it cannot be signed digitally at this time. However this might be changing soon! Learn more about BC’s Bill 21. )
What Happens When You Die Without A Will in BC?
If you die without a will in British Columbia, you’re considered to have died intestate. If you die intestate, the courts will use provincial laws to decide how to distribute your assets, in addition to appointing an executor, and guardians for any minor children. Unfortunately, this often isn’t what you would have chosen.
It’s also important to remember that there are more than financial repercussions to passing away without a will. It can result in additional burden and stress for your loved-ones, leaving them to guess your final wishes when wrapping up your estate. Not only can it be costly, it’s also time consuming and can cause delays.
In BC, the Wills, Estates and Succession Act determines how your estate is distributed if you don’t have a will. This is typically the order of distribution:
- If you have a spouse but no children, 100% of your estate goes to your spouse.
- If you have a spouse and a child who also belongs to that spouse, your spouse gets the first $300,000. The remainder is divided equally between the spouse and children.
- If you have a spouse and children and those children do not belong to your spouse, your spouse gets the first $150,000. The remainder is divided equally between the spouse and children.
- If you have no children or spouse, your estate is divided equally between your parents. If only one is alive, they get your entire estate.
- If you don’t have surviving parents, your siblings will get your estate. If they’re not surviving either, their children (your nieces and nephews) get their share.
Keep in mind that other loved-ones and common law spouses are not always accounted for in the provincial rules and may be left vulnerable if you die without a will. If you have any wishes that include these individuals, it’s even more important that you prioritize making a will
How To Make A Will in British Columbia
Despite what many people believe, you do not need to visit a lawyer or notary to make a legal will in BC. There are several ways you can make a legal will, depending on what fits your unique life situation. Here are some common ways to make a will in BC:
Online Wills In BC
Online will platforms, like Willful, make it easy for BC residents to make a legal will without the fuss of visiting a lawyer or notary. Online wills are easy to make and affordable. Some of the benefits of using a platform like Willful include:
- Customized legal document that is created based on your unique life situation
- Make your will in less than 20 minutes, from the comfort of your home.
- Logic-based platform that guides you every step of the way
- Expert support by phone, email, or chat
- Free and unlimited updates to your will as your life changes
- No surprise fees!
Willful has partnered with top estate lawyers in BC to build our legal documents, so you can feel confident knowing your will reflects your wishes. You can also make your legal enduring power of attorney or representation agreements online with platforms like Wilful.
Help your family avoid:
Will Kits In BC
When referring to will kits, people are generally referring to fill-in-the-blank templates that help you create your will. You can often find will kits at your local office supply store and they are relatively low cost. However, they are generally only a good fit for those with extremely simple estate with no additional wishes. They are designed to be one-size-fits-all and may not cover everything you may want to include in your will.
If you have a complex estate or want more customization options, consider other options such as an online will platform or visiting a lawyer. While will kits may seem affordable, you will likely need to purchase a new kit every time you wish to update your will. At Willful we recommend you review your will at least once every 6-12 months. Over time, the costs for changes can add up quickly!
Lawyer-Drafted Wills In BC
It’s not required to include a lawyer to create a legal will in BC; however, many individuals may benefit from legal advice from a lawyer. You may consider visiting a lawyer if you want to include custom clauses in your will or have a complex estate. A lawyer is also able to offer legal advice.
With that in mind, a lawyer-drafted will is one of the most expensive options. The costs can vary depending on the individual lawyer and the amount of time required to complete your estate.
Holographic Wills In BC
Holographic wills are not valid in BC. A holographic will is a handwritten will that is created without the help of any mechanical devices. They typically do not require witnesses in provinces that recognize holographic wills.
If you hand write your will in BC, you should ensure that you’ve followed the process for getting the will properly witnessed to ensure that it is legally binding.
Can I Write My Own Will in BC?
Long-story short, yes! In BC, it is legal to write your own will, provided that you’ve met all the criteria for a legal will. What makes your will legally-binding is not how you made it, but rather that you have it properly signed and witnessed. This means you can confidently create your will with an online platform without having to visit a lawyer.
As long as you’ve met all the requirements, which we’ve outlined earlier in the article, you have a valid will! With Willful, every will comes with fully detailed instructions to help you through the process, including who would be a valid witness.
Does A Will Need To Be Notarized In BC?
No, a will does not need to be notarized in BC for it to be legal.
However, if your estate needs to go through probate, you will need an affidavit of execution. Your affidavit of execution needs to be notarized. It can be completed at the time you execute your will, at a later date, or even after you pass away. Many BC residents will choose to wait to complete this process if they expect they may need to make updates to their will. An affidavit of execution is NOT required for your will to be legal.
Read More: Does my will need to be notarized?
Other Common Questions About Making Wills In BC
When Is Probate Required In BC?
Probate is the process of the courts formally accepting your will. Not all estates in British Columbia need to go through probate. Whether or not your estate needs probate usually depends on whether or not its required by your bank and financial institutions. They may require a grant of probate before releasing any assets.
In BC, there are no probate fees if your estate is under $25,000, then a flat fee for estates larger than $25,000.
How Much Does It Cost To Make A Will In BC?
It depends on the complexity of your estate! However, for most people with a simple estate and wishes, you can make a legal will for as low as $99 online with Willful.
If you require legal advice, visiting a lawyer to make a will can cost over $1000, depending on how complex your wishes are. You may also incur additional costs every time you make an update to your will.
You can often spot will kits at your local office supply store or bookstore. While will kits are relatively low cost, they are generally only a good fit for those with very simple estates. They are designed to be one-size-fits-all and may not fit your unique life situation.