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Dying With No Will
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Financial Planning  ->  Wills and Estates -> Dying Without a Will

What 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,

  1. in the case of a marriage,

    1. 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

    2. 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

  2. in the case of a marriage-like relationship, one or both persons terminate the relationship.

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 information.

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 Death and Bereavement.  Ontario has information about How an estate is distributed with or without a will, 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.

Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has a form, called an "Affidavit form for intestate situations", to be used when a person dies without a will.  A family member of a person who died with no will can complete this form to be recognized by CRA as the person willing to manage the tax matters of the deceased.  The affidavits for each province or territory except Quebec can be found at the above link.

Tip:  Make a will so your wishes are carried out when you die.

Revised: October 01, 2021


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