One of the objectives of the Wills, Estates and Succession Act (WESA) is to modernize BC’s succession laws, which have not been comprehensively reviewed in many years and contain some rules that are outdated, inflexible or serve a purpose that is no longer relevant. For example, under current wills and estates legislation, there are a number of provisions that protect the interests of the spouse and children of a will-maker, but many of these protections are only available when a legal marriage occurs. In today’s world, where many people enter into long-term relationships without ever going through the formalities of legal marriage, some of these protections apply unequally. Two examples of how WESA will address the potential for inequality and modernize wills and succession legislation are discussed below.
Revocation of a Will by Marriage
Under the current Wills Act, when someone is married, their will is automatically revoked unless the will expressly states that it is made in contemplation of their marriage. The main purpose of this rule is to protect the spouse and children of an individual, because even if a new will is never prepared, their spouse and children will be beneficiaries of the estate based on intestacy laws that apply when an individual dies without a will. However, the protection afforded by the rule does not apply in situations where no legal marriage occurs, even if the individual has a long-term common law spouse and children. Under WESA, this rule will be abolished and the subsequent marriage of a will-maker will no longer revoke a will.
Minimum Age for Making a Will
Presently, the minimum age for making a will in BC is 19, but an exception exists for minors who are or have been married. Married minors are given this special status to ensure that they can protect the interests of their spouse and children. Again, this protection is not available to a minor who is unmarried but in a common law relationship or has children. Under WESA, the minimum age for making a will will be reduced to 16, and the exception for married minors will be abolished.