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Carrying Out Final Wishes

Administering an intestate estate

If you are the spouse, adult child or other relative of a person who died without leaving a will, you could wind up applying to the court to administer that person's estate. If the decedent dies intestate and has no spouse, parent or children to handle these duties, or if those relatives are not willing or able to execute the duties, the court could wind up appointing you if you had a close relationship with the person during his or her lifetime.

What this means practically is that it's possible to have these responsibilities thrust upon you when you least expect it. You could even have to deposit a bond with the court, which is money you (or any insurer on your behalf) puts up as an incentive to competently and honorably carry out these administrative duties. Many times a court will waive the need for a bond, however.

If there are multiple people who are able to serve in this capacity, e.g., adult siblings of a parent who died intestate, you could need to collect the signatures of your siblings indicating that they signed off on your appointment as administrator and will not be challenging it.

When there are few assets to be managed and distributed and the decedent had his or her financial affairs in good order, this can be a relatively uncomplicated business matter that takes up very little of your time. But such is not always the case, unfortunately, and administering a complicated estate with multiple real estate holdings or business ventures can be almost like having a second full-time job.

In complicated cases where you are administering an intestate estate, it may be to your benefit to retain a lawyer who is familiar with all of the ins and outs of estate administration law here in British Columbia. Because the recent Wills, Estates and Succession Act took effect several years ago, the lawyer will be well-versed in these changes and can advise you accordingly on how to proceed.

Source: The Canadian Bar Association BC Branch, "What happens when you die without a will?," accessed Aug. 19, 2016

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