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Administration and distribution of estate when there is no will

When a person dies in British Columbia without leaving a will, the person is said to be intestate and their estate is handled in accordance with the Wills, Estates and Succession Act. According to the act, the entire estate goes to a spouse when there are no descendants.

If the individual had a spouse and descendants, the household goods are distributed to the spouse along with a share of the other assets. In cases where the descendants are descendants of the spouse as well as the intestate, the spouse receives the first $300,000. Otherwise, the spouse receives the first $150,000. The remainder of the estate is then split equally between the spouse and the descendants.

In cases where the deceased individual had more than one spouse, the spouses might form an agreement regarding how to share the spousal portion of the estate. If an agreement cannot be reached, the court will decide the matter for them. If the deceased has no surviving spouse, the estate is divided among the descendants, and if there are no surviving spouses or descendants, the estate goes to various other family members according to an established formula. In cases where there are no parties to claim the estate, it is transferred to the ownership of the government.

Having a proper estate plan removes the uncertainty of who will administer the estate and how the property will be divided. Such plans might also provide for the needs of the estate owner and may determine who will make decisions for the owner should the owner be unable to do so for themselves. Anyone who needs guidance in this area may want to contact a lawyer who has experience in estate planning. A lawyer might also be able to help a person who is named responsible for estate administration

Source: BC Laws, "Bill 4 - 2009 Wills, Estates and Succession Act," Sept. 4, 2014

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