Thursday, July 20, 2006

Probate in British Columbia of a Notarial Copy of a Quebec Will

Today I received a grant of letters probate of notarial copy of a will drawn by a Quebec notary. This was the first time I had acted for a client applying to probate a notarial copy of a will.

Usually in British Columbia, the original will must be submitted with an application for probate. But notaries in Quebec do not release the originals. Instead, they provide their clients with certified true copies of the wills.

Fortunately, British Columbia law provides if the will is made by a Quebec notary, the copy "has the same force and effect as the original and must be received in evidence in place of the original if the copy purports to be certified by a notary or prothonotary as a true copy of the original in his or her possession..." unless there is evidence that there is no original or the copy is not a true copy. This is set out in s. 36(1) of the Evidence Act, RSBC 1996, c. 124.

I had to make some small changes to the wording of the standard-form executor's affidavit and some of the other documents to reflect that we were applying to probate a notarial copy instead of the original, but thanks to the assistance of the Kelowna Supreme Court Registry staff, the application was quite straight-forward.

Because the will was in French, I had to provide a certified translation into English of the will. Shouldn't we be able to submit wills for probate without translations in either official language anywhere in Canada? I suppose the legal answer is that although Canada is an officially bilingual country, British Columbia is not an officially bilingual province. Probate laws are provincial. As a practical matter, I was more confortable getting the will translated into English by a qualified translater, than relying on my own understanding of French. All the same, its too bad we can't probate wills either French or English all accross Canada.

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