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Is an oral will valid in British Columbia?

In British Columbia a will that is not in writing and is not witnessed by two people may not be accepted as valid. The requirement to have the will in writing increases the odds of determining the identity of the person who created the will. Knowing who wrote the will makes it easier to determine what his or her final wishes were.

However, there are times when a court may allow an oral will or a will that has otherwise not conformed with the law. For instance, if the creator of a will did not follow the law due to ignorance or due to an honest mistake, that person's will may be recognized as valid. This is because not doing so may defeat the purpose of creating the document in the first place. Generally, a will is considered valid if there is no question as to the authenticity of the document.

Under the law, there is no minimum requirement that needs to be met for a will to be considered compliant. Therefore, a holographic will, an improperly completed stationery will or a will that was not witnessed properly may not be automatically rejected. Using this logic, it may be possible that an oral will could be accepted as long as there is no question that it represents the wishes of the testator.

Proper wills can be effective estate planning tool regardless of how much a person has to pass down. Before completing a will, it may be worthwhile to consult with a lawyer who may be able to make a will that complies with provincial law. If the will is improperly completed, it could be rejected by a court. None of the information in this article is intended to be specific legal advice.

Source: Ministry of Justice, "The Wills, Estates and Succession Act", December 09, 2014

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