New British Columbia Estate Succession Rules To Take Effect March 2014

In March 2014, laws regarding intestate succession as well as other probate regulations will change how property passes from one party to another after death, according to British Columbia Newsroom. Issues addressed by the new regulations include gifts, definitions, survivorship and accidents-in-common as well as intestacy.

The regulations were originally passed in 2009, but they have taken this long to come into force so that estate lawyers could have time to review and fully understand them. Regulators feel confident that in 2014, the changes will be a net positive for all B.C. and Vancouver citizens seeking to make a will and plan for the succession of their estates.

The new regulations repeal the Estate Administration Act, the Wills Act, the Wills Variation Act and the Probation Recognition Act. The new rules are codified in the Wills, Estates and Succession Act.

How the new regulations could affect you

Most importantly, the new regulations affect the rules for those who pass away without a will. If a married person dies intestate, the majority of his or her assets are divided among surviving family members with only a "preferential share" of $65,000 going to the surviving spouse. Under the new rules, up to $300,000 will go to the spouse, according to the Peachland News.

In the event of a joint intestate death such as an accident-in-common, inheritance will be split jointly between the two families. This fixes a legal loophole in which the inheritance for both spouses would go to the younger partner.

Marriage will no longer render both partners automatically intestate. A person's will remains the same before and after the marriage, making it doubly crucial to update his or her will after major life changes.

The Vancouver Sun also reports that the legal definition of "spouse" will change: Partners no longer need to be married in order to be spouses; they simply need to cohabit a living space and be in a "marriage-like relationship." The minimum age for making a legally binding will is slated to change from 19 to 16, according to the regulations. Insurance plans and RRSP benefits will no longer be subject to estate taxes.

The Prince George Citizen additionally reports that various assorted changes will give probate courts "more latitude" to act and make rulings on behalf of the deceased.

Where to go from here

With the new regulations, an estate planning attorney can help you put together an estate succession plan. The importance of keeping an up-to-date will cannot be overstated. If you need assistance writing and filing your will, consult with a lawyer and get everything squared away.