Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Why Was the Small Estates Provisions Left Out of the Wills, Estates and Succession Act?

When British Columbia's new Wills, Estates and Succession Act comes into force next month, on March 31, 2014, the Small Estates provisions will be left behind. Division 2 of Part 6 set out a streamlined procedure for personal representatives seeking approval, or confirmation of their authority, to administer small estates. The purpose of these provisions was to provide a relatively simple and inexpensive procedure for the administration of small estates.

I had been wondering why the Government of British Columbia was not bringing these provisions of the legislation into effect, and whether the Government had decided not to bring them into effect at all or was merely delaying their implementation.

I came across the answer to my questions in a Ministry of Justice publication online not surprisingly entitled Wills, Estates and Succession Act and Probate Rules Questions and Answers. Here it is:

14. Why was the small estates provision left out? 
 It was no longer needed. 
 The benefit of the small estate procedure was that it would be simpler and faster. 
 In drafting the new probate rules, we have created prescribed forms very similar to the small estate declaration proposed by the B.C. Law Institute. 
 The new rules make a distinction between simple and complex applications and ensured that their processing is dependent upon the complexity of an application, rather than the value of the estate. 
 Therefore, there wasn’t any advantage to these provisions, as all applicants will get the same benefits under the new probate rules – those with simple applications in particular. 
 As an example, simple applications are those where there is no apparently later will that needs to be explained, where there are no issues surrounding the signing of the will, where there are no hand written alterations to the will and no documents referred to in the will that appear to be missing. 
 It should also be noted that the fee structure has not changed – individuals still will not be required to pay probate fees if the estate is with less than $25,000. 

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