Introduction

It is important to note that the practice of wills and estates has undergone significant changes since the coming into force of the Wills, Estates and Succession Act S.B.C. 2009, c.13 (“WESA”) on March 31, 2014 (see BC reg. 148/ 2013). The changes in the law and procedure set out in WESA reflect the acceptance of many of the recommendations of the British Columbia Law Institute contained in its Report on Wills, Estate and Succession, B.C.L.I. Report No. 45 (June 2006).

Since WESA's coming into force, the Estate Administration Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 122; the Probate Recognition Act, R.S.B.C. 1996 c. 376; the Wills Act, R.S.B.C., 1996, c. 489; and the Wills Variation Act, R.S.B.C., c. 490 have been repealed and replaced. Generally, WESA will apply to deaths after March 31, 2014, and the new probate rules will apply to administration of all estates going forward. See WESA's transitional provisions at Part 7 to determine the applicable legislation in specific circumstances.

WESA has brought substantial changes to probate procedures. The Supreme Court Civil Rules and related forms dealing with probate and administration were amended by BC Reg. 149/ 2013, and implemented when the WESA came into force on March 31, 2014. Note that the changes to administration of small estates in Division 2 of Part 6 of WESA have not yet been brought into force.

Probate is the court-based procedure used to establish the validity of the will, if one exists, and to appoint the personal representative who will then have the authority to act on behalf of the deceased’s estate. When a person in British Columbia dies without a will, or with a will that only partially disposes of the estate, that person is said to have died intestate, or partially intestate as the case may be, and the probate process results in the granting of letters of administration to the personal representative if the person died without a will.

The primary statutes affecting probate and estate administration in British Columbia are:

  • Wills, Estates and Succession Act, S.B.C. 2009, c. 13, which came into force on March 31, 2014.
  • Estate Administration Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c.122, note that the Estate Administration Act was repealed and replaced by the WESA on March 31, 2014, but may continue to apply to the estates of persons who  died prior to March 31, 2014
  • Trustee Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c.464
  • Supreme Court Civil Rules, Part 25, which replaces Rules 21-4 and 21-5 respecting the administration of contentious and non-contentious estates.

This module discusses the practices and procedures involved in obtaining a grant of probate and letters of administration. The areas discussed are:

  1. Principles of law relating to executors and trustees, administrators of estates, probate actions and claims that can be made against an estate such as claims for debt and wills variation actions;
  2. Procedural rules relating to grants of probate and administration; and
  3. Practice tips.