Garton & Harris

Dealing with estate administration without a written will

There are many steps involved in managing a person's assets, liabilities and affairs after they pass away. When no formal estate plan or will is left, this can make the estate administration process more complex. In British Columbia, the term for passing away without a valid will is dying "intestate." Fortunately, there are legal options available when this happens.

In British Columbia, the Wills Estates and Succession Act directs what should happen when someone dies intestate. Next steps depend first on living heirs, including a spouse and/or children. If a person has a spouse with no children, the process may be relatively straightforward as this spouse inherits everything.

Those with a spouse and children may have a slightly different situation. First, the spouse will retain a preferential share of the estate up to a certain amount as mandated by law. The leftover assets, known as residue, is divided among the spouse and children according to a predetermined formula.

For those who do not have a spouse, children will divide everything evenly. For those without a spouse or children, next of kin is involved. There is a succession of who is sought for next of kin estate administration when no spouse or children are present; starting with parents, then siblings, then siblings' children, then other next of kin. 

Some complications may arise during estate administration when a will is not present. The main negative consequence is that the assets belonging to the person who passes away may not be distributed in the way the individual would have wanted. Those with questions or concerns about intestate estate administration should reach out to a British Columbia estate planning lawyer.

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