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Carrying Out Final Wishes

Check a will carefully before going through probate

There are many responsibilities thrust upon an estate administrator in British Columbia. Chief among them is putting the will through probate. This is an important process, and requires completion before the estate can be administrated. However, it may be that not all the listed assets will need probating. Here are a few things to look for before getting started.

Some assets may be owned jointly, and not subject to probate fees or taxes. Jointly held assets, such as bank accounts or property, typically transfer to the other holder when the testator passes. Still, it may be necessary to alert the appropriate institutions about the owner's death. 

Should the decedent have held RRSPs, RRIFs, or TFSAs, these might already have a named beneficiary, and may not need probating. The same goes for life insurance policies, which can have multiple beneficiaries. Investments, such as stock certificates, may not need probating and may require checking with the issuer.

Although unusual, there are instances in which the testator may have made two wills. In such cases, typically one will is for assets that need probating, and the other handles those assets that do not. Though not a common occurrence, there is precedent, and the practice is gaining in popularity.

Though all these possible exceptions to probate may seem confusing, they are indicative of a testator who was trying to reduce the burden for those left behind. Even still, properly assessing a will before probate can be a complex task, even for a modest estate. It may be best to consult with a lawyer who understands British Columbia estate law before proceeding.

Source:, "How to Avoid Probate in Canada: 8 Steps", Accessed on March 6, 2017

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