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What Happens to an Estate in BC if There is no Will?

Estates & Trusts | January 21, 2022 | Written by Emily Anderson

Knowing what happens to an estate in BC if there is no will is crucial for proper planning after the death of a loved one. That is why the experts in wills, estates, and trust law at Linley Welwood have compiled some information on estates and how they are distributed according to BC law in the absence of a will.

What is the Wills, Estates, and Succession Act of British Columbia?

What is an Estate?

An estate is everything comprising the net worth of an individual. This includes all land and real estate, possessions, financial securities, cash, and other assets that the individual owns or has a controlling interest in.

How is an Estate Distributed if There is no Will?

If an individual passes away without a will, BC law determines how their estate will be divided. In most cases, the estate is divided based on the mix of relatives that the deceased leaves behind. The estate is divided if the deceased leaves behind according to the following:

A Spouse and no Descendants

The estate will be distributed to their spouse. An individual is defined as a spouse of the deceased if they were married to them or were in a “marriage-like” relationship with them (often referred to as common-law). For common-law relationships, an individual must have lived together with the deceased for a minimum period of 2 years.

A Spouse and Descendants

The spouse will receive at least part of the estate. The amount received depends on whether the descendants are also the spouse’s descendants. If the deceased leaves a spouse and children — all of whom are also their spouse’s children — the spouse receives the first $300,000 of the estate and half of what is left over beyond this amount. The other half is divided equally among the children. If any of the deceased’s children are not also their spouse’s children, the spouse receives the first $150,000 of the estate and half of what’s left over. The other half is divided among the descendants of the deceased. In either case, the spouse has the right to acquire the family home from the estate as part of their share.

Descendants and no Spouse

The estate is divided equally amongst their descendants. A descendant can be defined as a surviving person of the generation nearest to the deceased. This will almost always be the children of the deceased, though grandchildren can be named as descendants under certain conditions.

No Spouse and no Descendants

The estate is divided amongst their parents. If their parents are no longer alive, the estate is divided equally amongst siblings. If no one qualifies as the next of kin for the deceased, their estate is distributed to the provincial government.

To learn more about wills, estates, and trust law or to discuss the details of your case, get in touch with the lawyers at Linley Welwood. We can be reached by phone at 604-850-6640 or through our online contact form and will be happy to assist you.


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