Issues Arising From Intestacy in BC (Dying Without a Will)

Issues Arising From Intestacy in BC (Dying Without a Will)

Intestacy occurs when a person dies without a valid will, leaving their estate to be distributed according to statutory laws rather than personal wishes. In British Columbia (and within Canada in general), intestacy can lead to a range of legal and emotional complications for surviving family members. Understanding these issues is crucial for anyone involved in estate planning or dealing with the aftermath of a loved one’s death.

Legal Framework Governing Intestacy in British Columbia

In BC, the Wills, Estates and Succession Act (WESA) governs the distribution of an estate when someone dies intestate. WESA aims to provide a fair and predictable framework for distributing assets, but it cannot account for the specific wishes and unique family dynamics that a will can address.

Issues Arising From Intestacy

1. Impact on Minor Children: When minor children are involved, intestacy can complicate matters further. The court may appoint a guardian and trustee to manage the inheritance on behalf of the children until they reach adulthood, which may not align with the deceased’s preferences for their care and financial management.

2. Higher Costs and Delays: Settling an intestate estate can be more costly and time-consuming than administering a will. The process involves court applications, the appointment of an estate administrator, and potentially more legal fees and taxes, reducing the overall value of the estate for beneficiaries.

3. No Provision for Charities or Non-Family Members: Intestacy laws do not account for charitable donations or the inclusion of non-family members as beneficiaries. Without a will, any wishes to support causes or friends will go unfulfilled.

The Importance of Estate Planning

To avoid the complications associated with intestacy, it is essential to engage in proactive estate planning. Creating a comprehensive will allows individuals to:

  1. Clearly Define Beneficiaries: Specify exactly who should receive assets and in what proportions, ensuring that personal relationships and intentions are honoured.
  2. Appoint Guardians and Trustees: Designate trusted individuals to care for minor children and manage their inheritance, providing peace of mind that their needs will be met.
  3. Minimize Legal Costs and Delays: Simplify the administration process, reducing the burden on surviving family members and preserving the estate’s value.
  4. Include Charitable Donations: Ensure that any charitable wishes are fulfilled, supporting causes that were important to the deceased.
  5. Prevent Family Disputes: Provide clear instructions that can help avoid misunderstandings and conflicts among beneficiaries.


Intestacy can lead to a range of issues that complicate the grieving process and disrupt family harmony. In British Columbia, the Wills, Estates and Succession Act provides a framework for distributing intestate estates, but it cannot replace the specificity and personal touch of a well-drafted will. By understanding the potential pitfalls of intestacy and taking proactive steps to create a comprehensive estate plan, individuals can ensure that their wishes are honoured and their loved ones are protected.

Visit the Estate Law section of our blog for more guidance on navigating BC Estate Law, or reach out to our estate lawyers in Vancouver for help with your specific situation.

If You Have Questions, We Can Help

If you have questions about your rights regarding a property or estate, our lawyers at Spraggs Law are here to help. Please don’t hesitate to contact us at 604 359 1627 or online today.