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Unclaimed gifts and beneficiaries who cannot be located

If an individual living in British Columbia has been named in a will as a beneficiary but is unable to be located, there are several steps that must be taken. First, the personal representative of the individual who wrote the will must spend 12 months attempting to locate the beneficiary. If the personal representative is unsuccessful, that individual is then permitted to sell the property and deduct the amount that was spent on storage, sale and transportation. The remaining money is then placed in a trust.

The money is held either by the personal representative or by the Public Guardian and Trustee. In the former case, the representative must pay the net proceeds into the court minus the costs. The beneficiary then has the opportunity to claim that money.

If efforts to locate the beneficiary are successful, the beneficiary must be notified about the property. If the individual does not take possession of the property after 180 days, the personal representative is permitted to sell the property and send the proceeds to beneficiary. Again, the personal representative may deduct costs associated with selling, storing and transporting the property.

An individual who is involved in estate administration following a death may wish to work with a lawyer who could help them follow the necessary procedures in administering the deceased's wishes. Someone who is planning their estate may also decide to utilize the knowledge of an experienced lawyer to choose a representative for their estate and to help them create the necessary legal documents.

Source: Queen's Printer, "Wills, Estates and Succession Act", November 26, 2014

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