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Dying intestate can lead to estate litigation

When someone dies intestate, meaning without a will in place, the assets contained in the estate of the deceased are distributed according to British Columbia law. Typically, this means the closest living family members -- spouse, children or parents -- receive any property or money. If the deceased had no immediate family, the government has a line of succession in place for how to distribute the assets from the estate.

A startling number of Canadians do not have an estate plan in place when they die. Because of this, probate courts deal with many disputes among heirs who disagree with the handling of the estate, disapprove with the court's choice of representative or believe they can prove the deceased intended to include them in the inheritance. What the deceased did not anticipate is that the relatively limited time and money he or she may have spent on preparing a will may have saved loved ones more time and money they spent in court, not to mention the damage to their relationships.

The laws determining the validity of a will are different in each province. It is often a mistake to type out a will and believe it will hold up in court. More often, those typed wills with no witnesses are difficult to verify and may create even more confusion. The same may be said for do-it-yourself wills one can download from a website. These are vague and may not conform to British Columbia laws.

Those who face the death of someone who dies intestate may have little understanding of their rights and limitations as heirs. Seeking legal advice can help in determining whether one has sufficient reason to pursue estate litigation in probate court. An experienced legal professional can provide solid representation.

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