What are my rights if a loved one passes away without a will?

If a loved one passes away without a will, his or her estate will be distributed along legislative guidelines. This means that the will be distributed in accordance with a set of rules as which surviving family members gets which parts of the estate.

Unfortunately, however surviving family members may have believed a loved one would have wanted his or her possessions distributed, no will means there is no clear or legal instructions to follow.

This situation could cause additional grief and confrontations as surviving family and friends may feel they have a claim to some portion of the estate. But what are the legal rights of family and friends when there is no will?

According to the information laid out on B.C.’s Dial-a-law website, the amount of descendants and presence of a spouse may all factor into the equation.

You can read the full breakdown on their site, but the highlights include:

  • The estate goes to a spouse first.
  • If there are surviving children (who also share the same surviving spouse) the spouse gets a lump sum value, and then the rest is divided between the family members. If the children do not share the same surviving spouse, the spouse gets a smaller lump sum, with the rest divided between the remaining family.
  • If there are no spouses, the estate is divided between the remaining children, or next of kin. If there is no next of kin left, the estate goes to the province.

A mixed family can often disagree on what parts of the estate each member should get, and who deserves certain assets more. As this can cause friction between family members, it’s important that each person who feels they have a legal claim to a part of the estate consult with an experienced estates lawyer. He or she can help you confirm if you do have a legal right to the estate, and what legal protections you can pursue in order to protect your interests.

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