As of July 13, 2020, the probate registries are open for in-person services. To find out more, including your options for submitting your application, see our information on dealing with wills and estates during coronavirus.
When a loved one dies, they leave behind their property and debts. These must be dealt with. A grant of administration is similar to probate. It’s a document issued by the court, giving the person named as administrator the legal authority to settle the estate. Learn when you need to apply for a grant of administration, and how to do it.
When to apply for a grant of administration
When someone dies, their property must be dealt with. Ideally, the person named in the deceased’s will as executor can do this. But sometimes this isn’t possible. Consider the following scenarios:
- The deceased had a will, and they named an executor in it. But it turns out this person doesn’t want (or can’t do) the job. Here, someone may need to apply to court for a grant of administration with will annexed.
- The deceased didn’t have a will. (So they never chose an executor.) Someone may need to apply to court for a grant of administration without will annexed.
- The deceased had a will, but the court says it’s not valid. (Because, for example, the deceased seems to have been pressured into signing it.) Someone may need to apply to court for a grant of administration without will annexed.
What applying for administration involves
Basically, paperwork. Various documents are filed with a probate registry. Registries are the official record keepers for the Supreme Court of BC.
If everything’s in order, the court issues a grant of administration. The administrator named in this document has the legal authority to settle the deceased’s estate. This can include paying debts, selling assets, and distributing property. The administrator can show the grant to anyone who holds assets of the estate (such as banks).
The law says who can apply
The people who can apply for a grant of administration are listed under the law in order of priority. You can only apply if no one above you wants the job. The order of priority depends on what type of administration application is being made.
If there’s no valid will
“My best friend Mara died without a family of her own, or any siblings. She left me 60% of her estate. The remaining 40% is to be split between 10 of her cousins, and adult nieces and nephews. I want to apply to administer the estate. The other 10 beneficiaries don’t want me as administrator — they want to keep it in the family. But even though I’m just one beneficiary, I hold the “majority interest in the estate” (more than 50%). I have more say than the others. I have first priority as administrator.”
– Sophia, Vancouver
The law sets out who can apply for a grant of administration without will annexed. From the top:
- The spouse of the deceased or someone nominated by them.
- An adult child of the deceased, with the consent of the majority of the deceased’s children.
- A person nominated by a child of the deceased. That person must have the consent of the majority of the deceased’s children.
- An adult child of the deceased without the consent of the majority of the deceased’s children.
- If there are no adult children, any other heir (that is, someone who’s entitled to a share of the estate) may apply. Priority goes to an heir who’s the consensus pick of the heirs that have the "majority interest in the estate." Next, priority goes to someone nominated by those heirs. Otherwise, any heir can apply.
- Anyone else. This may include a friend of the deceased, or a professional such as a lawyer or accountant. The Public Guardian and Trustee might also apply to administer the estate, if no one else is willing to do it.
If there’s a valid will, but the executor won’t be acting
The law sets out who can apply for a grant of administration with will annexed. Again, by order of priority:
- A beneficiary who’s the consensus pick of the other beneficiaries who have a majority interest in the estate.
- Someone nominated by a beneficiary. They must have the consent of the beneficiaries who have a majority interest in the estate.
- A beneficiary who doesn’t have the consent of the beneficiaries with a majority interest in the estate.
- Lastly, any other person, including the Public Guardian and Trustee, with consent.
If you’re thinking of applying for administration, check that everyone who has equal or higher priority than you is okay with you throwing your hat in. It’s a good idea to get their written agreement to your application. If the deceased died after March 31, 2014 (when new law was introduced), these consents aren’t required by law. But it’s good practice to file them with your court application.
You can deal with some assets without a grant of administration
If the estate assets are worth less than $25,000, you typically don’t have to apply for a grant of administration. It’s up to the institutions that hold the assets whether they’ll transfer them to you without one. Check with them and see.
A grant isn’t required for assets that pass outside of the will
A grant of administration is only required for estate assets. Not all things owned by the deceased form part of the estate. Certain types of assets “pass outside the will.” This means you can transfer them to someone without a grant (though you’ll still need a copy of the death certificate). Typical examples include:
- Assets held in joint tenancy. Examples include a joint bank account or a house owned in joint tenancy. This is a way that property can be owned. Usually, when a joint tenant passes away, the other owner(s) automatically get their share.
- Assets with a designated beneficiary. The deceased may have named someone as a “designated beneficiary” of a particular asset. (That means the deceased chose this person to inherit the asset — usually money.) Examples include a life insurance policy or a retirement benefit plan.
Many couples hold all their assets through joint ownership or with beneficiary designations to avoid going to court for probate.
If the deceased owned land
As the administrator, you’ll need to transfer the land to someone else (either by selling or to a beneficiary or heir). If the deceased owned land other than in joint tenancy, you’ll need to apply for a grant of administration. This is true even if the deceased’s interest in the land is less than the $25,000 threshold.
If you’re wondering whether the deceased held land in joint tenancy, you can look at the state of title certificate. Under the law, the transfer document and title must state that the land is held in joint tenancy, otherwise it becomes a tenancy-in-common.
When you sign the documents
You’ll need to sign some of the application forms in front of a lawyer, notary public, or a commissioner for taking affidavits. All court registries have such a commissioner, and some community groups do as well.
When you sign a document in front of them, it means you’re swearing that the information in the document is true.
Fees to be paid to the court
To file the administration application, you must pay a court filing fee of $200.
You may also have to pay the court probate fees. Probate fees are based on the gross value of the estate assets. (That is, the value of the estate assets before debts.)
Fees are calculated based on a formula. See below under “Apply for a grant of administration” for details.
If the estate has a value of less than $25,000, there are no court or probate fees.
You may have to pay a bond to the court
If you’re applying for a grant of administration, you may have to deposit money with the court. This is called a bond. The bond ensures you’re doing your work honestly and competently.
The court may tell you to pay a bond if there’s a beneficiary or heir who is:
- A child under 19.
- An adult who is mentally incapable, and doesn’t have a nominee. This is someone who’s responsible for the adult’s financial affairs, such as an attorney under a power of attorney.
If required, you’ll need to pay the bond before the court will issue you a grant of administration. Bonding companies may ask you to pay a bonding premium and other fees. These can be charged to the estate when you do your final accounting.
How long the process takes
The time frame for the probate registry to review and approve administration applications can vary considerably. Generally the process takes two to three months, but it will depend on the volume of applications and staffing levels at the probate registry.
If your administration application is rejected
If your application is rejected, the probate registry will tell you the reason. You can then correct the problem and re-apply.
Step 1. Notify others that you intend to apply
“Mom died without a will. She and Dad divorced a while ago and she never found another partner. She had three kids, including me. When I applied for administration, I was confused about whether to give notice to my auntie Celia, mom’s sister. My lawyer explained that only me and my siblings were entitled to the estate under the law. So I didn’t have to send Aunt Celia notice.”
– Dion, Pender Island
You must notify certain people that you intend to apply for a grant of administration. To do so, complete the court form P1, notice of proposed application.
If the deceased left a will
Together with a copy of the will, mail or deliver the completed form P1 to:
- each person named in the will as executor or alternate executor,
- each beneficiary named in the will,
- the deceased’s spouse and children (because they’re entitled to challenge the will), and
- each person who would be entitled to a share in the estate if there had been no will
If the deceased didn’t have a will
Mail or deliver the completed form P1 to:
- each person who’s entitled to a share in the estate (or would have been if the spouse hadn’t received a share), and
- if the deceased left debts behind, each creditor whose claim exceeds $10,000.
For all applications
Whether or not the deceased had a will, you must also deliver notice to:
- anyone who’s served a citation to you in relation to the deceased (such as a citation requiring you to apply for probate in form P32),
- if the deceased was a Nisga'a citizen, the Nisga'a Lisims government,
- if the deceased was a member of a treaty first nation, the treaty first nation, and
- the Public Guardian and Trustee, if any of the people you need to notify is a minor or mentally incapable adult.
You must deliver this notice at least 21 days before submitting the application to court. This gives people the chance to dispute your application.
Step 2. Prepare the application
You must file paperwork with a probate registry. Find a Supreme Court registry close to you. A typical administration application will include these documents:
- A submission for estate grant in form P2. This form gives details about your application for administration.
- An affidavit of the applicant. This form identifies you and your relationship to the deceased. If there’s a will, use form P3 or P4. If there’s no will, use form P5. If you’re using form P5, you must swear that you made a diligent search for the will. The law requires you to search in all places that could reasonably be considered a place where a testamentary document may be found.
- Affidavits of delivery, in form P9. Together, these confirm that notice of the application was delivered to everyone required.
- An affidavit of assets and liabilities in form P10 or P11. This form sets out all the deceased’s assets and liabilities that pass to you as administrator.
- If there is one, the originally signed version of the will, or if the original does not exist, a copy of the will. You’ll also need to file evidence that supports that it’s a copy of the valid will. The court may or may not accept the copy.
- Two copies of a certificate of wills search, and any accompanying wills searches. You can get these by doing a search of the wills registry.
Additional documents may be required. Examples include forms to deal with issues relating to the will, dispensing with notice, an executor renouncing their executorship, and other unusual applications.
Completing the forms
If there’s nothing to list under one of the headings on a form, write “nil” or “none.” Blank spaces may suggest that information is missing. This is one of the main reasons forms are rejected.
Our information on filling out probate forms walks you through some common questions asked about the standard probate forms. Most of the forms are also used in applications for a grant of administration. We also give you tips for making a successful application.
Step 3. File the administration application
File the application in a probate registry of the Supreme Court of BC. You’ll also have to pay a court filing fee. The fee is currently $200. If the estate has a value of less than $25,000, you don’t have to pay this fee.
To find the closest probate registry, contact Enquiry BC:
Lower Mainland: 604-660-2421
Step 4. Pay any probate fees
Once the application is reviewed, the probate registry will assess the probate fees you need to pay. These must be paid before the court will issue you a grant of administration.
The probate fees are based on the gross value of estate assets that were located in British Columbia when the deceased died. If the deceased was ordinarily resident in British Columbia immediately before they died, you’ll also need to pay probate fees on intangible (non-physical) assets located outside of the province, such as bank accounts or investments.
If the estate assets have a value over $25,000, fees are payable on the following basis.
$0 to $25,000
$25,000 to $50,000
$6 for every $1,000 (or part of $1,000)
$50,000 or more
$14 for every $1,000 (or part of $1,000)
For example, if the gross value of the estate assets is $125,000, the probate fees will be $1,200:
$6 x 25 (for every $1,000 between $25,000 to $50,000) = $150
$14 x 75 (for every $1,000 between $50,000 to $125,000) = $1,050
These probate fees are in addition to the court filing fee of $200.
Step 5. Proceed with administering the estate
Once a grant of administration is issued, you can proceed with the remaining steps in administering the estate.
For assistance in applying for administration, some of the options for free or low-cost legal help may be helpful.
The Law Society of BC is a body governing BC lawyers. Its Online Learning Centre provides information on the process for applying for a grant of administration.
The Public Guardian and Trustee is a government office that manages estates, for a fee, when the executor is not able or willing to do so, or when someone dies without a will.
Self Counsel Press publishes do-it-yourself guides on legal and financial topics for BC. The British Columbia Probate Kit can be a valuable resource if you intend to apply for administration without the help of a lawyer.