What happens if there’s no will and an heir dies before the estate has been settled?

My best friend died without a will. Her son, who was set to inherit, died before the estate could be distributed. What happens to his share of the estate?



Ladysmith, BC

When someone dies without a will, they're said to have died intestate. When this happens, the distribution of their estate is based upon this BC law. Who gets what depends on who survives the deceased and how they’re related. We explain these rules more fully here.

Now, to your question: what happens if an heir dies after the deceased, but before the estate has been distributed? The answer depends on the time that passed between when the deceased died and when the heir died.

Under the law, an heir who dies five days (or less) after the deceased is treated as if they died before the deceased. This means the heir (and their estate) would not be entitled to receive anything from the deceased’s estate. 

If the heir died more than five days after the deceased, their share will go to their own estate. The fact that the heir passed away before the money or property was actually given to them doesn’t strip them of their legal right to inherit. The share the heir would have received should be paid to their estate and divided according to their will (or intestacy law if they had no will).

Lynda Cassels

Lynda Cassels

Cassels Murray
  • This information applies to British Columbia, Canada
  • Reviewed for legal accuracy in January 2022

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