If someone dies without a will or “intestate”, the formula set out in the Wills, Estates and Succession Act [SBC 2009] c. 13(the “WESA”) governs.
The WESA sets out the scheme of distribution.
Generally speaking, the first $300,000.00 goes to the spouse, if there is one and if they have children in common. Otherwise, $150,000 if they do not.
The balance of the money is split equally between the spouse and the children. If there are children, there is no opportunity to set up a trust or have the spouse or parent of the child administer the money. Instead, the money is held by the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee until the child turns 19, an often-undesirable state of affairs.
If there are no children or spouse, then the estate is generally distributed to family members in the following priority:
(b) brothers and sisters.
(c) nieces and nephews.
If there are no nieces and nephews, then the estate will go to the government.
The Act only deals with assets in the name of the deceased. Many assets such as property held in joint tenancy and Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) and life insurance policies that are specifically designated to a beneficiary are distributed by the operation of law and not by the Act.
Courts generally interpret the definition of the word “spouse” in the Act in a holistic manner.
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