Most British Columbia residents do not have an estate plan in place. This means when they die, the courts will distribute their assets according to the laws of intestacy, which may not align with what the deceased would have wanted or satisfy the heirs. There are many reasons why people delay writing a will, and one of those reasons is the concern over its cost. Some even take a shortcut and handwrite their wills. However, when taking into consideration the expense one's loved ones may have to bear because of estate litigation over a holographic will, it may not be worth the savings.
Holographic wills are typically those that a person has written entirely by hand, expressing his or her last wishes. Those who write their own wills usually sign them but do not have any witnesses. This makes it easy for someone else to change or falsify a holographic will because it is difficult to determine the authenticity of its contents.
For this and other reasons, many courts in Canada, including B.C., do not easily accept holographic wills, especially those without witnesses. There are some rare exceptions, but the heirs of someone who leaves behind a holographic will may find themselves spending months or years in a courtroom fighting over the validity of the document. Additionally, those writing holographic wills often make critical mistakes, such as using language that is ambiguous, omitting important assets or forgetting to name someone as executor.
While a handwritten will may seem like a quick and easy way to deal with the frustration and cost of estate planning, it is not always the bargain it seems. Holographic wills frequently lead to estate litigation when family members disagree with their meaning or careless mistakes lead to confusion. Those who choose to use a holographic will may still benefit from seeking legal advice to ensure the will holds up in a British Columbia court.