Protecting Your Loved Ones After you Pass: Taking A Closer Look at Probate Law in British Columbia

Planning for the death of a loved one is never easy, but it can often feel even harder to deal with what happens when we leave our loved ones behind. While thinking passing on is never pleasant, the reality is if you want to keep those you care about safe and cared for once you’re gone, you’re going to need to have a plan in place. While you’ve no doubt heard some facts (and possibly even some fiction) about wills, it’s important to remember that every province has their own specific rules and regulations for handling wills and probate, and thus you’ll want to be aware of what you need to do to make sure you’re covered in your province of residence.

Paperclip Law is here to help clients across British Columbia navigate the ins and outs of estate planning, wills, and even probate proceedings, making it easy to build a plan that has your best interests, as wells as the needs of the ones you love at the centre. We know just how important it is to make sure that every detail is covered, and can help you ensure that everything is properly accounted for, alleviate the pressure placed on those left behind. By partnering with Paperclip, you can help your legacy, as well as your love for those you hold dear, continue on into the future without the confusion and even frustration often faced by families.

Below, we’ll talk about one of the trickiest aspects of legally handling estate matters; probate. Read on to learn more about probate, and why you don’t want it to happen to your estate!

What is Probate?

Because of their close relationship in the realm of estate matters, if you’ve been looking into drafting your Will, you’ve likely come across the term probate a time or two. Probate is the process of dealing with a deceased individual’s estate in the absence of any guiding legal documentation. In simpler terms, probate is what happens to your estate (money, property, physical possessions etc) if you die without a Will. The goal of probate is to verify the deceased’s will (or intent) in a legal way, while handling assets, outstanding debts, and more, as fairly as possible. In the absence of a will, the probate process is designed to attempt to honour your wishes while also fairly allocating assets to your next of kin.

As you can imagine, without a legal document that firmly protects and conveys your wishes, probate law often involves disputes, confusion over open-ended areas, and other points that need legal clarification.

Avoiding Probate Procedures

One of the biggest misconceptions we hear from those who are hesitant to prepare a will is that they believe they won’t need one since their assets will simply be passed onto their children or next of kin. While this may be true to a certain extent, probate, in reality, can be much more complicated. Individuals that wish to receive your assets may have to prove that they have a legitimate cause to lay claim, can face disputes from other family members attempting to gain specific items or holdings, and if you have an outstanding debt that will need to be paid off, it can be much harder for individuals to tie up matters without a legal document clearly granting them authorization.

In BC, you may be able to avoid probate procedures if your total assets amount to less than $25,000, but even then, it’s still best to have a clear plan in place for the sake of those you love. At the end of the day, having a clear directive serves as an immense relief, and offers some form of reassurance during their time of grieving. Wills are also essential if you have any other major assets (ie company shares, stocks, bonds, trusts) that need special consideration for allocation. In fact, as many find when handling estate planning, the cost of not doing your homework in advance is often so much greater than taking a few hours to draft a plan that will put everyone at ease.

Avoid Probate Delays

Within British Columbia, probate law is governed by the Probate Registry of the Supreme Court. Under the provincial mandate, there is a 3-week waiting period between the time of death and the ability to file a probate application. After this, there is then an additional 3-6 week (typically) wait between an application being received and the approval of the registration. This secondary period can fluctuate depending on the specific details of your case, but in general, you can expect a 1-2 month wait.

Finally, once your application is approved, the overall handling of estate matters can last anywhere from 30 days all the way to 2 years before being resolved. When you add all the numbers together, this means that your loved ones could be looking at anywhere from 10 weeks all the way to nearly 2.5 years to receive their portion of your assets. This can certainly be less than ideal if they find themselves in a time of need, or if they struggle to hand your outstanding accounts during the probate process.

It Isn’t Free

One “surprise” you’ll want to make sure your family members are prepared for when handling your estate is that there is a fee charged by the courts in order to approve a will and/or the administrator (similar to an executor) of the estate if you pass without a legal will. In BC the fee is currently approximately 1.4% of the sum of all assets passing through the estate.

How To Avoid Probate Headaches

As we’ve discussed above, Estate planning is a must when it comes to protecting your loved ones and reducing the confusion and grief they’ll face upon your passing. Partnering with a skilled team of legal experts will help ensure your assets are clearly, and fairly allocated, with everyone knowing exactly what to do in the process. The result is a much smoother experience for the whole family, with everyone having the opportunity to focus on what matters most: remembering the incredible legacy you’ve leaving behind and focusing on the love that surrounds them.

Paperclip Law is proud to help our clients throughout the Vancouver Region and Squamish create the perfect fit when it comes to managing their assets today, tomorrow, and for generations to come. We believe that estate planning should be simple and are happy to partner with you to make the process feel easy and transparent. Contact us today to learn more!