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. As of April 1, 2014, the Wills, Estates and
Succession Act (WESA) defines a spouse as a person who is married to
the other person, or who
has lived with the other person, including a person of the same gender, in a
marriage-like relationship, for at least 2 years prior to the date of death
(unless the Act specifies another time as the relevant time). Two
persons cease being spouses of each other for the purposes of the Act if,
in the case of a
they live separate
and apart for at least 2 years with one or both of them having the
intention, formed before or during that time, to live separate and
apart permanently, or
an event occurs
that causes an interest in family assets, as defined in Part 5
[Matrimonial Property] of the Family Relations Act, to arise, or
in the case of a
marriage-like relationship, one or both persons terminate the
If there is no spouse or the spouse
does not wish to administer the estate, WESA sets out the priority among
applicants for administration of the estate. If there is no family member
or successor 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 Wills, Estates and
Succession 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 Estate Administration,
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.