Probate: Demystified

Probate: Demystified

A Grant of Probate is a certification issued by the British Columbia Supreme Court. It is often required for proof to financial institutions, financial advisors and the Land Title Office that your Last Will and Testament has been certified by the Court and that your Executor is authorized to represent your Estate. The process of certification is known as Probate.

The government charges a fee, known as a Probate Fee, for issuing a Grant of Probate. It is calculated based on the present market value of assets that comprise the gross value of your Estate at the time of your death.

Once a Grant of Probate is received, the Executor remains responsible for administering the Estate. This includes ensuring the Estate debts are paid and disbursing the remaining Estate Assets to the Beneficiaries as set out in your Will.

Many people believe that Probate is required for all Estate administration following the death of a loved one. This is often not the case. A Grant of Probate is required to administer only property or assets held solely in the name of the Deceased, as these are the only assets that flow through the Estate.

Often spouses hold their property and assets jointly, meaning the process of Probate would not be required to transfer the assets to the surviving spouse.

Also, in certain circumstances financial institutions will waive the requirement for Probate when administering the funds held at that institution. It is always advantageous for an Executor to speak with the Estate Department at each financial institution where the Deceased’s assets are held to determine if Probate is required.

Through Estate Planning, you can minimize the amount of assets that flow through your Estate and still place the assets in the hands of the people who you intend to receive them after you pass away. Assets that are excluded from Probate and do not form part of your Estate include:

  • Property and bank accounts held jointly with another person
  • Property owned outside of British Columbia
  • Life Insurance, RRSPs and other investments for which there is a named a beneficiary
Jointly held assets automatically pass to the surviving joint owner, do not form part of the Estate and are not subject to Probate fees.

However, you must carefully consider the effect of joint ownership if you intend the property to be divided among more than the person or persons on title after you pass away. Without proper planning, you may unintentionally exclude a beneficiary from their intended inheritance. A lawyer or accountant can advise you with respect to these considerations.

When you name a beneficiary for your investment or insurance policy, upon your death the beneficiary is paid those funds directly. They do not form part of your Estate. This becomes particularly important when your beneficiary financially relies on you and requires funds on an ongoing basis, as often the Probate process ties up many of the Estate assets for a prolonged period of time.

A lawyer can help you to understand the wide range of issues that arise with the preparation of estate planning documents and probate considerations. If you would like advice or for more information regarding such matters please contact Chahal Priddle LLP at 250-372-3233 to set up an appointment today.