On March 31, 2014, a new law called the Wills, Estates and Succession Act (“WESA”), comes into force in British Columbia. WESA repeals and replaces several existing statutes, including our current Wills Act, Wills Variation Act, Estate Administration Act and Survivorship and Presumption of Death Act, and brings with it a significant overhaul to our existing probate procedures and forms.
What does WESA mean for you?
Many of the reforms brought about by WESA are minor corrections that serve to update and modernize the existing law. Some Acts, such as the Wills Variation Act, are essentially unchanged and are being carried over in their entirety to WESA. Other provisions of WESA, however, represent significant change in the law. For example, WESA introduces a new scheme for how your estate will be distributed if you die without a Will. It also introduces a controversial new section that will potentially allow a court to recognize almost any document as a Will (including electronic records), despite the fact that the document does not comply with the formal requirements which have previously been required (though we caution that it remains to be seen how this section will be interpreted by the courts and how it will effect practice).
Do I have to redo my Will because of WESA?
Not necessarily. Wills properly made prior to WESA are not invalidated by the new law and remain in force. For deaths after March 31, 2014, however, the new law will apply to the interpretation of all Wills, whether made before or after WESA, and certain provisions in existing Wills (such as cash gifts made on the death of a surviving spouse) may give rise to double-gifts or other unintended consequence as a result of WESA’s change to our current survivorship laws.
As with any important document, it is important to review your Will regularly to ensure it still accurately reflects your intentions, and a change in the law is a good time to conduct such a review to ensure that your wishes will be properly carried out.