We are committed to providing advice and assistance to our clients in structuring their estate plan in the most effective manner so as to preserve their assets now and to transfer those assets to their beneficiaries in a tax efficient manner.
We can help you with structuring the current ownership of your assets, making a plan for the future, and preparing a Will to carry out your wishes after your death.
Anyone can make a Will. Although you don't have to, it is the best way to make sure your property and possessions will be distributed after your death to family and friends according to your wishes.
A Will is a legal document setting out who is to benefit from your property and possessions (commonly called your "estate") after your death. In British Columbia, wills can be written by any person over the age of 19, who is mentally capable.
Although Wills are simple to create, about half of all Canadians die without one. If you die without a Will to indicate your wishes, the Court steps in and distributes your property according to the B.C. Estate Administration Act. A Will ensures that what assets you do have will be given to family members or other beneficiaries you designate. If you have no apparent heirs and die without a Will, it's even possible that the Province may claim your estate. Having a Will is especially important if you have young children because it gives you the opportunity to designate a guardian for them in the event of your death. Without a Will, the Court will appoint a guardian for your children.
It is advisable to consult a solicitor when you draw up a Will. You may also need legal advice for any more complicated transactions, such as if you want someone who is the other joint owner to inherit your share of any jointly-owned property or possessions.
The basic elements of a Will include:
- your name and address
- name of an executor to manage the estate
- name of guardian for minor children
- name of alternative guardian in the event your first choice is unable or unwilling to act
- specific gifts, such as an auto, jewellery or residence
- names of spouse, children, and other beneficiaries such as charities and friends
- establishment of trusts for minor children
- general administrative provisions (adding to powers under the Wills Act)
- date of Will
- your signature
- names, addresses and signatures of two witnesses
An executor is the person who is responsible for distributing your estate. Most people appoint their spouse, an adult child, a relative, a friend, a trust company or a solicitor.
The executor is responsible to pay the debts of the deceased and any taxes owed by either the deceased or the estate and the executor is responsible to distribute the assets of the estate in accordance with the Will.
It's important to name a guardian for minor children in your Will in case, upon your death, your spouse is unable to act. The guardian you choose should be over 19 and be willing to accept this responsibility. You should talk to the person ahead of time about what you are asking. If you do not name a guardian to care for your children, the Court will appoint one and it may not be someone you would have chosen.
Start by making a list of the names of your family members, their addresses, relationship to you and, if under age, their date of birth. Then make a list of your assets and liabilities. You can then use this information to decide how you would like your assets distributed. With this information in hand, you are ready to prepare your Will or to instruct your solicitor to prepare your Will.
You should store your Will in a safe place that others can access after your death and make sure that someone knows where to find your Will. If you have had a solicitor prepare your Will, the solicitor will file a Notice with Victoria indicating the fact that a Will has been executed and stating the location of the Will. The solicitor will keep a copy of the signed Will as well as the Notice indicating the location of the Will.