In the British Columbia courts, a person’s last will can be contested under the Wills Variation Act. Wills variation claims arise when a child or spouse feels they have not been adequately provided for within a will or when there is another dispute over the fair dispersal of an estate.
To avoid this legal process—which can be lengthy, costly, and emotionally draining for your surviving loved ones—in the future, there are preventative steps you can take when doing your estate planning in the present.
1.Draft your will with a legal professional
Quite simply, the best step you can take to avoid wills variation claims is to write your will with the help of a lawyer. There are many issues that most people aren’t even aware of when it comes to writing a will, even when it comes to seemingly straightforward estates. An experienced lawyer knows the latest case law related to wills variations, can warn you of any potential conflicts within your will, and will advise you on the necessary steps to take to ensure your final wishes are adhered to.
2. Speak about your estate plans with your family
It is important to speak with your loved ones about the directives you have left in your last will and testament well before it is administered. Discussing the plans you have for your property, your savings, and your belongings allows family members to air their opinions and concerns, which you can then account for when drafting your will.
You will need to speak with both those you are including in your will as well as anyone you are excluding from it. Disinheritance of a spouse, child, or grandchild can often lead to wills variation claims, particularly when the disinherited family member was unaware of the testator’s intentions. Having a wills and estates lawyer involved in this step can help control emotions.
3. Set up a living trust
Establishing a living trust, or inter vivos trust, involves allocating money for a loved one while you, the settlor, are still alive. Because a living trust is established before a will is put into effect, the assets that are in the trust are not considered to be part of a deceased person’s estate. In short, this means that the assets within an inter vivos trust are not able to be contested in the same way that an estate is.
4. Update your will regularly
Every time a major event occurs in life, you should update your will. Whether a marriage, a divorce, the birth of a child, or the acquiring of new assets, an amendment is in order. Keeping your will current to your present life circumstances will reduce the chances of a wills variation claim in future. It is easy to imagine, for example, how writing your will before half of your grandchildren are born and neglecting to update it after the fact could lead to contestation in future.