Garton & Harris

Wills important for B.C. business owners

When business owners are no longer of this mortal coil, it's extremely important that they have left behind a will. Wills are important for every adult in British Columbia, but when someone owns a business, it's crucial to everyone associated with it -- family members, employees, managers and co-owners -- that the business can survive without the deceased owner. And if there is a stakeholders' agreement in existence, it should spell out how to approach issues like death.

The basic step many British Columbia business owners fail to have done is to have a will drafted by a wills and estates lawyer. The law regarding wills and estates changed in British Columbia in 2014. The Wills, Estates and Succession Act (WESA) modernized the laws pertaining to wills and estate planning and business owners definitely should have their wills updated to make sure their wishes regarding their businesses are followed in the event of death, including how they would like their businesses to continue without them. 

Distinction has to be drawn between the assets owned by the deceased in a personal capacity and assets owned by the business. Doing this will determine the value of the deceased business owner's estate and figuring out which assets the will disposed of. An executor doesn't necessarily have the right to distribute corporate assets to the estate's beneficiaries. A will of a business owner fashioned by an experienced lawyer will address these complexities.

The legalities of wills can be complex, especially for those who own businesses in British Columbia. Entrepreneurs would be wise to sit down with a seasoned British Columbia wills and estates lawyer to discuss what should be included in a will. Only such a lawyer can give estate planning advice.

Source:, "Death of a business owner", Justin de Vries and Gillian Fournie, Accessed on Aug. 7, 2017

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