Some of the Commonly Asked Questions about Wills
Q. Why get a will?
- A will is a basic document that everyone should have because it says what happens with your assets after you die.
Q. Should I get an online will?
- Using a will kit online is a bad idea. The following is a list of the possible problems with online will forms:
- Who prepared the template? Many online will websites claim their templates are vetted by lawyers, but who are these lawyers? Do they practice law in BC, Nova Scotia, Mississippi, Timbuktu?
- No estate planning advice: A will is just one product of a proper estate plan. Many people are lured into a false sense of security with simply getting a will prepared online without getting any estate planning advice. The estate planning advice that our wills lawyers give routinely saves our clients thousands of dollars in probate fees, taxes and legal expenses. Estate planning is the first step to making a will; without it, a will could be useless.
- Is it a valid will?: Does the online will comply with BC law, or is it based on a template based on Ontario’s laws or even worse, based on another country’s laws? Even if it is a will based on BC law, does it hold up to the strict standards that make a will legal?
- Have you filled the online wills form out correctly? Do you really understand what all that legalese means? Is the wording of your gifts in the will unclear or ambiguous in any way?
- Has the will been signed correctly? The wills law in BC has very strict rules about what makes a valid will. Unless signed correctly, a will is not valid. See Part 4 of the Wills, Estates and Succession Act of British Columbia.
- Our wills and estate lawyers routinely help executors with flawed wills done online that were done without the proper estate planning advice and drafting. Such wills and lack of advice often result in unneeded probate and legal fees, confusion, disputes, excess taxes being paid, and disappointed beneficiaries.
Q. How do I find a wills and estates lawyer near me?
- Westcoast Wills is available to meet from anywhere, using videoconferencing. We also have two convenient offices: on Lonsdale in North Vancouver, and on West Broadway in Vancouver. We also know of estate lawyers in other areas of the province and would be happy to share their names. Please contact us.
Q. How much does it cost for a simple will?
- Firstly, only about 15% of wills are truly simple with no complication. The problem is that you wouldn’t know if you’re a part of that 15% until an estate planning lawyer sits down with you and goes reviews your circumstances.
- That said, getting a straightforward will for one person can range in price from $0 to $1,500 in the Vancouver area. Firms often offer discounts for doing wills for spouses, as it’s the same amount of meeting time and similar documents.
- $0 – $150: At this price for a will, you would either be doing it yourself or filling out an online wills form or a will form bought at a drugstore. Obviously with no legal training, you shouldn’t be hand writing your own will, as this often results in frustrated and angry loved ones after your death, excess taxes after your death, and in some cases tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees after you die. Online will template forms are equally as dangerous. See the dangers of making a will online detailed above.
- $350 – $500: Notaries and general practitioner lawyers often charge in this price range for getting a will in Vancouver. Far better than writing a will yourself or doing an online will, but see above for the potential downsides of going this route.
- $550 – $1,500: This is the price range to expect in getting a will from an estate planning lawyer. The huge difference in price usually comes down to the location. Do they have luxury office space on the 40th floor of a downtown office building, or do they work from home or or less expensive office spaces? At Westcoast Wills & Estates, we are proud to be at the lower end of this price spectrum, while offering the same or higher amount of expertise as many lawyers at the higher end of this price scale.
Some of the Commonly Asked Questions about Probate
Q. How long does probate take in BC?
- Probate is handled by the Supreme Court of BC. The Vancouver Probate Registry currently has a roughly two month delay between the time an application is received and the time that they approve the application. In recent years, that delay has been as much as six months and as short as two weeks. Other court registries have different delay times, but dealing with a registry out of town has its own challenges. See here for a map of the different Supreme Court probate registries throughout the province: https://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/supreme_court/court_locations_and_contacts.aspx
Q. What is the probate fee in BC?
- Simply speaking, the probate fee is a tax charged by the court to approve a will, or in the case of an intestate’s estate, approve the administrator of the estate. In BC, the fee is currently roughly 1.4% of all the assets passing through the estate. We have a probate fee calculator here to help you approximate what the probate fee will be.
Q. Do I need to get probate?
- Typically, executors (or “administrators” where there is no Will) will know if they need to go get probate because someone has told them that they can’t deal with a particular asset until they do. In BC, there are many circumstances where a grant of probate may be needed. If the deceased person had (in their own name):
- real estate – probate will be needed;
- a bank account – probate may be needed (this frustratingly varies from bank to bank and branch to branch but the threshold is usually around $30,000);
- a car – ICBC may allow transfer without probate, depending on the total size of the estate;
- stocks or other financial instruments – probate may be needed (varies by institution)
A probate lawyer at Westcoast Wills & Estates can help you determine if a grant of probate is required. Contact us.