Drafting a will more important with new laws now in effect

New legislation significantly changes how wills are drafted and interpreted in the province

British Columbia's new Wills, Estates and Succession Act (WESA) went into effect earlier this year and effectively overhauled wills and estates law in the province, according to the Vancouver Sun. The new legislation helps modernize the rules of estate succession, but it also brings with it a number of controversial changes. The changes to the law are a reminder to all British Columbians to either draft a will or update the ones they already have.

Will validity under new law

One common concern among British Columbians is what sort of effect WESA will have on wills that existed prior to the legislation coming into force. While WESA does not invalidate previously existing wills, it is important to understand that wills written before WESA became the law will now be interpreted by the courts according to WESA and not according to the old wills and estates law.

In addition, WESA does away with the old rule that marriage automatically invalidates a previously existing will. This new rule is important to understand for a number of reasons. For one, people who are planning on marrying or remarrying in the near future need to know that any will they had before their marriage will continue to remain in force. Furthermore, however, is that WESA will not allow wills that were invalidated by marriage under the old law to now be reinstated, according to the Globe and Mail.

What counts as a will?

The most controversial aspect of the new legislation is how much more power courts will be given to interpret the intentions of the deceased person. Whereas under previous laws a will could be more easily invalidated if it failed to comply with technical requirements, the new law will significantly broaden the definition of a will.

The law provides that courts can use informal markings or recordings, such as emails and notes, to help determine the true wishes of the deceased when distributing an estate. While it remains to be seen how the courts will deal with this unique aspect of the law, British Columbians should be well prepared for how this new rule could impact their estate planning goals.

Need for legal counsel

The new rules surrounding wills, particularly the broader powers given to the courts, underscore how vital it is to get professional legal help when drafting a will. To make sure an estate plan complies with the new legislation, an experienced wills and estates lawyer can provide invaluable advice and service for clients looking to make sure their estates are distributed according to their wishes.