happens if you die intestate (without a will)?
If you die without a will,
there is no executor, so someone is
needed to "administer" the estate. The right to administer the
estate is determined by law.
In British Columbia, the person with the
first priority is the spouse or common law spouse (as of November 1, 2000, the
Estate Administration Act defines a common law spouse as a person who
has lived with another person, including a person of the same gender, in a
marriage-like relationship, for at least 2 years immediately prior to the
other person's death) , providing the spouse has not lived apart from the
deceased for more than one year. If there is no spouse or the spouse
does not wish to administer the estate, then another family member may
administer the estate. If there is no family member willing or able to
administer the estate, then the responsibility goes to the Public Guardian and
Trustee, as Official Administrator for the Province of British Columbia.
There is a fee for this service, and it may take two years or longer to
complete all the legal requirements of administering the estate. See the
BC Public Guardian and Trustee web site for more
If you die intestate, who will inherit your
estate is also determined by law. In BC, the Estate Administration Act
determines who will inherit. If the deceased leaves a spouse, including
a common law spouse, and children, then they will inherit the estate. If
there is no spouse, children or grandchildren, then parents inherit. If
there are no parents, siblings and children of pre-deceased siblings
inherit. For more information, see the BC Public Guardian and Trustee
web site frequently asked questions,
or the BC Ministry of Attorney General web page "About
Wills and Estates". Ontario has information about How
an estate is distributed, including how to make a claim as an heir.
For information regarding what happens in each
province, see What
to do when someone dies, which has links to wills and estate
information on provincial/territorial websites.
Tip: Make a will so your wishes are
carried out when you die.