When making a Will in BC, it is worth the cost of seeking advice from a professional. This is because there are tax and probate fee planning issues, which need to be considered. As well, the current rules in BC for Will-making are quite technical and problems often occur with homemade Wills. For example, in one case a mother had her son’s wife witness her Will, which invalidated the mother’s gift to her son. In another case, a woman had her housekeeper witness her Will one day and her physiotherapist witness it the next day which invalidated the Will because both witnesses were not present at the same time watching her sign her Will.
Your professional advisor will need to know about all your family members, including spouses and separated spouses, children, including adopted and step-children, marriages and common law relationships, present and past, your birth place, current residence and citizenship and that of any intended beneficiaries, whether any beneficiaries are under 19 or disabled, and details of your assets, including location in or outside BC, whether you own your assets jointly with another person and whether you have made beneficiary designations for any registered plans (RRSP’s, RRIF’s, TFSA’s etc) or insurance. You will also need to provide copies of any marriage or separation agreements or agreements with respect to any of your assets. You should also bring photo I.D. so that your advisor can identify you.
You should think about who will handle your estate (your executor), who you would appoint to be guardian of any children under age 19 and who would replace those people if they couldn’t act. You may want to set up trusts under your Will (and will have to do so for any beneficiary under 19). You should decide how long trusts will last (for example, for the lifetime of the beneficiary or until a certain age, 19 or 25 or some other age).
You need to decide who would inherit your estate if all of you and your intended beneficiaries died in a common disaster.
Finally, you should consider whether you want to make any charitable gifts in your Will. When you make a gift to charity in your Will, it is deemed to be made in the year you died and you receive a donation tax credit for the gift in your final tax return.
You should be aware that there is new legislation pending in British Columbia with respect to Will-making and you should consult your professional advisor with respect to how the pending new laws will affect your Will and any other documents which you are signing like a power of attorney or a representation agreement.
Sandra L. Enticknap, LLB
Miller Thomson LLP