It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for… on March 31, 2014, the new Wills, Estates and Succession Act (“WESA”) came into force. Welcome to a new regime for estate planning and administration in British Columbia!
That may have sounded overly dramatic, but WESA really has been a long time coming. After a number of reports recommending law reform to this area of the law, WESA was first introduced in the Legislature in 2008. It was re-introduced and received Royal Assent in 2009. Since that time, we have been waiting for – and preparing for – WESA to come into force and modernize estate law in BC.
The main challenge that anyone involved in estate planning, administration and disputes is working through right now is the transition from the old legislation to the new. Here is a brief overview of some of the transitional rules:
- Any applications for probate or administration filed before March 31, 2014 will continue under the old rules. After the application is submitted, any additional filings will be under the new probate rules.
- Any administration and probate grants issued under the previous legislation are deemed to be valid under WESA.
- As of March 31, 2014, all applications for probate or administration must be made using the new forms.
- The date of death (whether or not it occurred after March 31, 2014) does affect the application of many of the new rules, including survivorship rules, what happens when a person dies without a will, estate administration, and dealing with deficiencies in a will, to name just a few.
Since these transitional rules are complex, we recommend that you seek the advice of a lawyer if you are dealing with any estate-related matter, including estate planning, administration, or a dispute.
Section 190 of WESA allows courts to give directions on the transition and make orders regarding any legislation repealed by the new act. This section will act as a bit of a safety net because it permits the court to intervene and provide instruction if any circumstances arise that are not specifically contemplated by the transition rules.
As with any new piece of legislation, it will take some time for lingering questions around the application and interpretation of the new laws to be answered. Occasionally, the government will enact amendments to clarify or update a particular provision. A more certain source of guidance, however, is the courts. Over time, judges will be called upon to grapple with issues raised by WESA, and their decisions will give greater substance and direction to the operation of the law.
Until then, it’s a brave new WESA world.