How property prices could lead to more contested inheritances

As property prices climb, estate planning requires greater focus for many

As the Globe and Mail recently reported, real estate prices in the Vancouver area continue to climb, with the median single-family detached house price in Burnaby now breaking the $1 million barrier. With property values continuing their upward trend, the implications for estate planning are serious. In fact, experts say that high property values, along with other important factors, could contribute to more cases of people challenging a will following the death of a loved one.

Wills and property

According to CBC News, challenges to wills are expected to rise in the coming decades at least partly due to rising real estate prices. In the Vancouver area particularly, single-family detached homes have increased significantly in value. For those who bought such homes decades ago when prices were still low, they now find themselves sitting on an asset that has grown many times in value over the years.

That increased value means that the stakes are much higher when an estate is being divided. For those who do not draft or regularly update a will, how a home gets handed down could lead to an unhappy situation, especially if one or more descendants feel as though the will has treated them unfairly. In many cases, people who bought their homes decades ago may not be aware of their property's current value, meaning it can be difficult to decide how to fairly pass on and divide an estate.

Other factors at play

Of course, home prices are just one factor that is contributing to more will challenges. Another important factor is that opportunities for challenging a will are likely to increase in the coming years. Experts say that in the next 20 years about $1 trillion is expected to be transferred from one generation to the other. The main beneficiaries of all that wealth will be Baby Boomers, who also happen to be the generation with the highest debt levels.

In British Columbia, the situation is further fuelled by recently introduced legislation - the Wills, Estates and Succession Act - that is generally seen as making it much easier for descendants to challenge a will. Unlike in other provinces, the law in British Columbia allows for a much broader interpretation of what documents can be used in court to challenge a will.

Wills and estates

Whether people are looking to ensure their estate plan will help prevent disputes from arising in the future or they are concerned that a recently departed loved one's best wishes were not reflected in the way an estate was divided, they should reach out to a wills and estates lawyer immediately. An experienced lawyer can provide helpful and sensitive advice about estate planning matters for anybody with important questions or concerns about their family's future.