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Is My Will from Another Province Valid in BC?

So, you've recently moved to British Columbia. Or maybe you're considering such a move, and are getting things in order. Either way, welcome! Along with all your other planning, you may be wondering whether your existing will, drafted in another province such as Alberta, remains legally valid in British Columbia. There are a handful of relevant factors at play in this situation.

Recognition of Out-of-Province Wills

British Columbia, like other Canadian provinces, generally recognizes wills that are validly executed under the laws of the province or territory where they were created. This recognition is based on the principle of inter-jurisdictional validity, acknowledging that legal documents, including wills, should be respected across provincial borders. Essentially, if your will is valid in the province it was created, it will likely be recognized in British Columbia. 

That being said, each province has its own specific wills laws that set out the requirements for the execution of wills. For instance, the number of witnesses required, their qualifications, and the formalities of signing can vary. An example of a significant difference between provinces has to do with holograph wills. The term “holograph will” refers to a will signed by the testator (the person making the will) but not witnessed by anyone, often done in an emergency. The estates laws in Alberta specifically permit holograph wills while the laws in British Columbia specifically prohibit them. 

Seek Legal Advice

To confirm that your out-of-province will is valid in British Columbia, you should have it reviewed by an estate planning lawyer in BC. They can review your existing will, assess its compliance with local laws, and provide guidance on whether any amendments or a new will might be necessary.

Consider Updating Your Will

Even if your out-of-province will is legally recognized in British Columbia, it might be a good time to review and update your estate planning documents. Changes in personal circumstances, such as a move, marriage, or the birth of children, can impact your wishes and other aspects of estate planning, such as tax planning. A lawyer can help you make necessary updates to ensure your will accurately reflects your current intentions.

Estate Litigation In British Columbia

Apart from differences in signing requirements between provinces, there are significant differences in other aspects of estate administration, particularly about the care and maintenance of spouses and adult independent children. BC has estate litigation avenues that are not available in all provinces. So, even though your will is likely valid, your specific family circumstances and the wishes in your will may play out differently in BC. For that reason, you should meet with a lawyer to review your will and discuss the need for any changes. 

Validity of other Estate Planning Documents

A will is not the only important document as part of your estate plan. A power of attorney and health care planning documents are also important, and each province has its own rules about those documents. In our experience, the differences between provincial laws regarding power of attorney and health care documents are greater than the laws on wills. The laws in BC about power of attorney, specifically using a power of attorney to deal with land (e.g. selling a property by power of attorney), are very strict and very specific to BC. A power of attorney prepared in another province may not meet the criteria to function in BC. 

The validity of an out-of-province will in British Columbia depends on various factors. While the principle of inter-jurisdictional validity will most likely mean that your out-of-province will is valid in BC, seeking legal advice is crucial to understanding what steps, if any, need to be taken to ensure this. Estate planning is a dynamic process, and it's wise to periodically review and update your will to reflect changes in your life and to ensure that your wishes are legally recognized.

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