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Is probate always necessary in British Columbia?

If one is named as executor of an estate, a potentially complex process is about to unfold during one of the most emotional times in anyone's life. Handling probate and estate administration in British Columbia is not an easy task even at the best of times. If it were possible to largely eliminate the need to probate, it could simplify matters considerably. There are circumstances under which this may be possible.

Probate is the process by which an executor is confirmed by a court to have the authority to administer an estate of a deceased person. While there are many benefits to probating a will, there are some drawbacks, too. For example, once a will passes probate, it becomes part of the public record. If for some reason it is preferable to keep the will private, one may wish not to probate. Probate fees are another reason why many testators try to structure their estate to avoid probate, at least in part.

Any property held jointly, such as real estate or bank accounts, will typically pass directly to the surviving owner and will not require probate. Life insurance policies and registered accounts such as TFSAs and RRSPs, which have named beneficiaries, are not part of an estate, and not subject to probate. Proof of death, typically a death certificate, may be required in all the above situations, but probate is not required.

A careful examination of the will can help determine if probate is necessary. In some cases, it can be avoided completely, while in others it may be possible to omit certain assets from probate. For answers to complex questions about administering an estate, it may be best to speak with a British Columbia lawyer who practices estate law.

Source: Financial Post, "To probate or not to probate", Leanne Kaufman, Accessed on April 16, 2017

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