Is an Unsigned Will Valid in British Columbia?

, ,

There is often a delay between a lawyer completing a client’s will, and that client being available to execute (sign) it. The Covid-19 Pandemic has only lengthened these delays, which can be problematic if the will-maker happens to pass away prior to executing the new will.

The Wills, Estates, and Succession Act, S.B.C. 2009, c. 13 (WESA) lays out the requirements for a valid will, including that the will must be duly executed by the will-maker. If a new will is found to be invalid, the pre-existing valid will governs the distribution of assets. However, s.58 of WESA provides that the court may choose to cure a formally invalid will. In order to use s.58, the court must first be satisfied that the will is authentic and that it represents the will-maker’s deliberate, fixed, and final intensions regarding the disposal of their property upon death.

In a recent case, Bishop Estate v. Sheardown, 2021 BCSC 1571, the will of 76-year-old Marilyn Bishop was brought before the court. A charity had been listed as a beneficiary in Ms. Bishop’s previous will made in 2014. In early 2020, Ms. Bishop instructed her lawyer to draft a new will that removed the charity and added new gifts to family members. Ms. Bishop had an appointment to execute the will on March 20, 2020. Unfortunately, Ms. Bishop was unable to meet in person with her lawyer due to the pandemic and passed away four months later without having executed her will.

The charity argued that Ms. Bishop’s failure to execute the will was evidence that she had changed her mind and that the new will did not represent her final intentions. The court rejected that argument, noting that Ms. Bishop had become closer to her family in the years leading up to her death thereby explaining the new gifts, that she had reviewed and filled in the blanks in the new will, and that Ms. Bishop’s failure to execute the will remotely was not evidence of a change of heart. Therefore, the court found that the new will satisfied the test in s.58 and ordered that it be fully effective.

If you have concerns about the validity of your will or other questions, please call Heath Law LLP to book a consultation.