People often think that when a person passes away without a will
and immediate family, their property will go to the government.
This is not entirely correct. It can be the case that the property
of a person who passes away intestate and without next of kin can
be held by the government, but this is rare and only occurs in
If you die without a will, i.e. if you die intestate, the
Estate Administration Act sets out a table of
consanguinity (shared blood) that legally defines the closeness of
your relatives and how your property will be distributed amongst
them on your intestacy. A new law, called the Wills and Estate
Succession Act, will change the table of consanguinity into a
parantelic table, which means that the manner in which the
closeness of relatives is calculated will be somewhat different
once that law comes into force.
When a person dies intestate, both Acts set out the manner in
which an appointed administrator must search for heirs entitled to
the distribution of the deceased's estate. If this search
becomes exhausted and no legal heir is found, the real property
from the estate escheats, i.e. passes in ownership, to the Crown.
Similarly the personal property of the deceased's estate vests
in the Crown as bona vacantia ("ownerless
goods"). Any future distribution of this property is then
governed by the Escheat Act.
Where the Crown has a right to intestate property, it does not
dispose of the property and keep the proceeds of the estate. In
reality, the Crown does not have any active means to even determine
when property vests or escheats to it. The Crown only becomes aware
of its claim to intestate property when an appointed administrator
notifies it, or when an individual claims a right to the return of
the escheated property.
Most importantly, under the Escheat Act, an individual
with a moral or legal claim to either real or personal property
which has previously escheated to the Crown can apply to the Deputy
Attorney General of the Province to have the property distributed
to them. There is no limitation period in which a claim to
escheated property must be made.
Therefore, contrary to popular opinion, the Escheat Act
actually provides a means for the Crown to reunite intestate
property with the proper legal or moral owner(s) of such property
and is not a means of revenue generation.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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It is not uncommon for parents to provide monetary gifts to their adult children. Parents may wish to help their child with a down payment on a property, or help pay out their child's existing mortgage.
On March 31, 2014, BC's new Wills, Estates and Succession Act1 ("WESA") will come into force. WESA introduces new protections for beneficiaries of estates that are in danger of being disputed or deemed ineffective by a court.
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