Bronson Jones Gray
& Company, LLP
If a person dies without a valid Will, he/she is deemed to have died “intestate” and the estate must be distributed according to rigid, pre-set rules set out in the Wills, Estates and Succession Act (WESA).
According to section 20 of WESA, the entire estate of a deceased spouse who has died intestate must be distributed to the surviving spouse if the deceased had no descendants. If the deceased was survived by his/her spouse and one or more descendant(s), the situation becomes more complicated. Although spouses and children will be given a preferential share of the estate, other descendants to the deceased likely also have a claim. It can become even more complicated when there are additional ex-spouses of the deceased and/or stepchildren.
Since there was no Will and thus no executor appointed by the deceased to distribute the estate, it will first be necessary for someone to apply to the Court to be appointed as the estate administrator. Once approved by the Court, the administrator's duties closely mirror the duties of an executor of a Will, except, of course, there are no named beneficiaries, so the deceased’s assets must be distributed in accordance with British Columbia’s intestacy laws.