Clarifying Concerns About Probate Under New WESA Rules

WESA has simplified application forms, but probate fees remain the same

British Columbia's Wills, Estates and Succession Act (WESA) has overhauled many areas of estate law, including probate rules. Given the sweeping changes that have been brought in under WESA, it is understandable that many British Columbians have questions regarding probate under the new legislation, especially concerning how WESA affects the probate application process and associated costs. Understanding what has changed under the new WESA rules - and what has not - can help families make more knowledgeable decisions regarding probate applications.

Greater consistency under WESA

As the Ministry of Justice for British Columbia notes on its website, one of the main advantages of WESA is that it simplifies probate rules for executors. One of the most significant changes concerns the forms that must be filled out to apply for probate. These forms have been significantly reworked and are designed to make applying for probate much more straightforward for British Columbians. For example, when filling out the affidavit form, applicants can now choose a simple short form affidavit for relatively simple estates or a long form affidavit for more complex estates.

Additionally, WESA has standardized probate forms across the province to provide greater consistency between court registries. The government argues that such standardization will streamline court services and potentially shorten processing times. It is important to keep in mind, however, that the new probate rules generally only apply to situations in which an application for probate was made after March 31, 2014. While there are exceptions, applications for probate that were made before this date will still have to use the old forms.

Prices remain the same

While WESA significantly overhauls the probate application process, it generally does not affect probate fees, according to the Ministry of Justice. As under previous law, there are no probate fees for any estate valued under $25,000.

For all estates over $25,000, there is a $200 basic probate application fee. Additionally, the portion of an estate that is valued above $25,000 but under $50,000 is charged $6 per $1,000 or portion of $1,000. An estate worth $30,000, for example, would be subject to $30 in probate fees on top of the $200 application fee. For the portion of an estate exceeding $50,000, the fee is $14 per $1,000 or part of $1,000.

Probate help

While the probate application process has been simplified under WESA, the need for a qualified wills and estates lawyer has not diminished, especially for complex estates. An experienced lawyer can help clients understand not only the new probate rules but also whether probate is necessary or beneficial to their particular situation.