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In British Columbia
What Happens if You Die Without a Will?

 When a person dies without a will, she is deemed to have died "intestate," and her estate will be distributed according to the Estate Administration Act.

Someone must apply to administer the estate. The court will usually grant the "letters of administration" (like a probate order) to the person who would receive the most under the Estate Administration Act. In some cases, the person appointed as administrator might have to post a bond in order to insure that the estate is administered according to law.

If no one applies to administer the estate, the court may appoint an official administrator, which will likely take more time and cost more than if there was a will. The powers and duties of an administrator generally are roughly equivalent to those of an executor.

The Estate Administration Act sets out the distribution of an estate where there is no will. For example:

Dies Leaving Distribution
Spouse and no children or grandchildren All to spouse.
Spouse and 1 child or grandchild Spouse gets first $65,000 and household furnishings, and can live in matrimonial home for life. Then, gets half of remainder.

Child gets half of remainder.
Spouse and 2 or more children or grandchildren Spouse gets first $65,000 and household furnishings, and can live in matrimonial home for life. Then, gets one-third of remainder.

Children share two-thirds of remainder.
Children only Equally. If a child is dead and leaves children, then the deceased's children share their parent's share.
Parents, but no spouse, no children Equally to parents, or survivor of them.

This is not exhaustive, but gives a general idea of the plan of distribution set out in the Estate Administration Act.

More questions?

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This page last updated: Apr. 2009
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