When someone dies without a will (dying "intestate"), their estate will be distributed according to the rules under the Wills, Estates and Succession Act.
The first step is to determine whether the deceased had a spouse. Under estates law in BC, people are considered spouses if they were:
- married when the deceased passed away, or
- in a “marriage-like relationship” for at least two years prior to death.
For “marriage-like relationships”:
- The two individuals could be considered to be in a marriage-like-relationship without living together.
- They needn’t have been in a “marriage-like relationship” for the two years immediately before the deceased’s death (but they must have been in a marriage-like relationship for two years at some point). For example, this would cover a situation where two people had lived together in a marriage-like relationship for two years, after which one of them moved out of necessity (for example to a care home), but there was no intention to separate.
Under the law, when the deceased dies leaving a:
- Spouse and no children. The entire estate goes to the spouse.
- Spouse and children with that spouse. The spouse gets the first $300,000 of the estate and half of the remainder. The other half is divided equally between the children.
- Spouse and children from a prior relationship. The spouse gets the first $150,000 of the estate and half of the remainder. The other half is divided equally among the children.
- No spouse, children, or grandchildren. There are other rules to figure out which next of kin may receive the estate if the deceased had no spouse, children, or grandchildren. Depending on the circumstances, it may go to their parents or siblings.