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The ins and outs of wills

Residents of British Columbia may create wills in order to distribute their assets to the correct beneficiaries upon death. A will can be changed after its creation until its testator's death. However, wills also have certain limitations of which individuals should be aware when creating them.

For example, wills do not cover provisions regarding the disposition of assets that individuals do not technically own at their death. These assets may be property that has a "right of survivorship," such as a piece of jointly owned real property or bank accounts. Wills also do not usually dictate the distribution of assets that have beneficiaries already, such as life insurance policies, RRSPs, TSFAs or RRIFs. Assets may be transferred outside a will in order to avoid incurring costs or unnecessary taxes.

In order to safeguard their wills, individuals may take certain steps, such as appointing executors whom they trust to carry out their wishes. To keep their wills secure, individuals may decide to keep the documents with their lawyers or in safety deposit boxes. Executors require the original versions of wills, not copies. A wills notice may also be filed with the Vital Statistic Agency that states who made a will and where the executor can find it.

A will must be drafted in a proper manner in order for it to be legally valid and prevent an estate from falling into intestacy. This is why many professionals recommend speaking to an estate-planning lawyer when creating a will. Such a lawyer could also provide information on other aspects of estate planning, such as trusts and powers of attorney.

Source: The Canadian Bar Association British Columbia Branch, "The Disappointed Beneficiary", August 12, 2014

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