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Carrying Out Final Wishes

Did the Wills, Estates and Succession Act affect your will?

During the recent overhaul of British Columbia's estate planning laws, the legislature implemented some major changes with the Wills, Estates and Succession Act.

One of the major changes affects marriages that took place after the signing of a will. Formerly, unless the will contained a clause specifying that it was executed in contemplation of the testator's pending marriage, it would be automatically revoked when the marriage took place. When WESA became law, however, this was no longer applicable. But if the will was revoked prior to WESA due to a marriage, it stays revoked under the Act.

It is always a good idea to review and update your will when a major life event takes place, like marriage or childbirth. Only then can you be sure that your new circumstances are accurately reflected by the intentions of your will.

The matter of presumption of death was changed by WESA as well. Previously, when a testator and beneficiary died in the same event simultaneously, e.g., a car accident or house fire, etc., the presumption was that the older of the two was determined to have predeceased the other. Under the new Act, if the same two pass on within five days of one another, it is deemed that the testator survived the beneficiary for purposes of interpretation of the will.

Another change with WESA concerns the manner in which jointly owned properties are passed to beneficiaries when the owners die within five days of one another in the same event, or it can't be determined who died first. Before implementation of WESA, the older of the two owners was assumed to have predeceased the other, meaning that the younger person's estate got all of the property under joint ownership. WESA now severs the joint ownership, giving each party's estate half interest in the property as tenants in common.

Those residents of the province who executed their wills prior to WESA changes of March 31, 2014, should ideally consult an estate law attorney to review their wills to make sure that their intentions can still be legally fulfilled.

Source: Mondaq, "Canada: How WESA Will Impact Your Will In BC," Marie-Claire Dy, accessed Dec. 30, 2015

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