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How can a will be changed or contested?

A simple will is the foundation of many individual estate plans in British Columbia, and a number of people rely on wills to ensure that their last wishes are honoured and that their property is distributed properly on death. Often, though, people must update or alter their wills to reflect changes in attitude or life events. Additionally, heirs and potential heirs may choose to challenge a will if they feel the testator's wishes were not properly contained therein. In either case, the laws of British Columbia provide guidance.

The making, changing and contesting of wills are all governed by the Wills, Estates and Succession Act. With regard to changing a will, section 54 of the Act states that an alteration must be signed by the will-maker and his or her signature must be witnessed, with signatures of the witnesses near the alteration itself or at the conclusion of a memorandum that refers to the alteration. Alterations are valid if they are made in the same manner as valid wills are made.

A will may be contested if it fails to provide for the maintenance and support of a dependent or of the decedent's surviving spouse. Reasons for contesting a will may include the revocation of the will or a part thereof by the will-maker, lack of mental capacity or of knowledge of the will's contents, a mistake in the document, the undue influence of another person or fraud.

The validity of a will may be challenged in British Columbia during probate. Each case presents unique circumstances and the outcome of a will contest depends on the facts of the case. This post is meant as a broad overview and should not be read as legal advice. A wills and estates lawyer may be able to answer questions about changing or contesting a will. Additionally, a lawyer may help draft the documents necessary to challenge a will or oversee the alteration of an existing will.

Source: Legislative assembly of British Columbia, "Division 4 — Altering, Revoking and Reviving Wills", September 24, 2014

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