Vancouver Mandarin Chinese Probate and Estate Administration Lawyer

Vancouver Mandarin Chinese Probate and Estate Administration Lawyer

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Wills are most often challenged during the probate process, and problems can arise with the executor of any estate. This is especially true for Chinese families, who might be dealing with the laws of multiple countries and who might have a real need to challenge a will as written.

Our team speaks Mandarin. If it’s the language you are most comfortable and fluent in we are happy to use it while helping you manage your affairs. 

We can also help you navigate the entire probate process, and can advise you on what to do if the executor of your loved one’s will isn’t doing the job properly. 

Vancouver Probate Lawyers with Cross-Border Experience

Most of our clients require a lawyer who understands all the ways that international law can impact the estate planning process. Many of our clients hold assets in Canada, China, and Hong Kong. Some own property in the United States as well. Many own properties across provinces, not just in British Columbia.

This makes everything quite a bit more complex, as every nation and province has its own inheritance laws, tax laws, probate laws, and more. 

We serve as the executor for many of our client’s estates, precisely because few layperson executors will ever have the ability to navigate the complex laws of multiple countries. If you are looking for a trustworthy firm to name as your personal representative, we are happy to help. 

The Purpose of Probate

Probate verifies that a will is both the actual will of the deceased, and that the will is valid under British Columbia law. The probate process is required in most cases before banks will release funds, or before the title of real property can transfer to a new owner.

Many people talk of avoiding probate, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing, nor is it overly expensive in the province. Probate will cost roughly 1.4% of most people’s estates, or $14 per $1000. 

Not all assets go into probate. For example, assets stored in a trust of some sort will pass to the beneficiary of that trust without need for further action on the part of the courts.

Probate is useful. In general, it’s wise to ensure you’re working off the correct version of the will, and that the will is valid and legal. Probate speeds up the process of getting money into the hands of the will’s beneficiaries. The only real reason to “avoid probate” is to get assets into the hands of your heirs far faster.

How Probate Works

Probate starts with a probate application, typically three weeks after the deceased passes. It can take another 6 weeks for the application to be approved. This will set you a court date. The will is now said to be “in probate.” This also opens the will up to challenges, should any beneficiary wish to make one.

Once the probate process is finished the court will allow the executor to begin administering the will. The estate’s debts get paid off first, and then the remainder is distributed to the beneficiaries in accordance with the deceased’s last wishes. 


What Happens When There is a Will?

Before the will can be used, the courts must first validate it with the probate process. This also gives those who wish to challenge the will the ability to do so. The executor will be verified and given the right and responsibility to administer the will. 

What Happens When There is No Will? 

You are considered to have died “intestate.” This means that the courts will administer the will in accordance with the Wills, Estates, and Succession Act of British Columbia. The money will go to your spouse and children in the percentages set by the Act, and to other distant relatives only if your spouse and children no longer live. 

This means if you want to leave any money to a grandchild or a favorite niece or nephew, you risk them being cut out of the process because they are not close enough to the immediate family. 

What Assets are Subject to Probate in BC?

Assets that are in a deceased person’s name with no beneficiary attached are subject to probate. This can include bank accounts, real property, cars and boats, and any other assets.

Assets with a named beneficiary, like trusts and insurance policies, do not go through probate. Assets that were jointly held just pass to the other, living person who owns the asset. This is why trusts, insurance policies, joint ownership, and living gifts are all part of the estate planning process. 

Is Probate Mandatory in BC? 

While the government does not make probate mandatory, many financial institutions do. Most banks will not release funds without probate, and will not allow the executor to release them without a representation grant proving they are the lawful executor of that will. 

How Much Does an Estate Have to Be Worth to Go to Probate in BC?

Any estate worth $25,000 or more must go to probate. Some smaller estates may not, strictly speaking, need to be probated, but banks may still require it. Fortunately if the estate is any smaller than $25,000 there are absolutely no probate fees.

How Long Does an Executor Have to Settle an Estate in British Columbia?

In general, the executor has one year from the willmaker’s date of death to finish administering the will and settling the affairs of the estate. There are exceptions. Sometimes the wishes of the willmaker force the executor to withhold funds for longer, such as when they are waiting for a minor to reach the age of majority so that they may receive the funds. This is known as the Executor’s Year. If the executor takes any longer than that, beneficiaries may ask the court to require the executor to show cause for the delay.

Does an Executor Have to Show Accounting to Beneficiaries in British Columbia?

Yes. Beneficiaries in fact are usually asked to sign a Trustee Release before they release funds to a beneficiary. This release says that the beneficiary agrees with the trustee’s accounting to date. No beneficiary has to sign a release, but failing to do so can often delay disbursement of funds. 

The accounting should include a record of fees and other costs paid out of the state, such as legal fees and executor fees, a record of the debts paid out of the estate, and a tax clearance certificate from the Canadian Revenue Agency which confirms the estate has paid all tax, penalties, and interest owed.

Executors are allowed to pay themselves fees for the work that they do while administering the estate. If a beneficiary disagrees with the fees, they may take the executor to court.

What Percentage Does an Executor Get Paid in British Columbia?

Executors are allowed to compensation of no more than 5% of the gross aggregate value of the estate. 

Why pay executors at all? Because they spend a great deal of time and money to execute an estate. They take on a measure of legal liability as well. It’s a big responsibility, and so The Trustee Act gives them the right to make a little money.

Without that right, few people would want the job of being an executor at all, and it would be that much more difficult to manage the inheritance process.

Can an Executor Withhold Money From a Beneficiary in British Columbia?

No. The executor must administer the will in accordance with the wishes of the deceased or the court, if the court has varied or altered the will. The executor has a fiduciary responsibility to the heirs.

Estate litigation is possible when the executor is found to be acting in bad faith. 

How Our Vancouver Probate Lawyers Can Help You

Our probate lawyers can help in two ways.

First, if you are in the middle of estate planning right now we can help you decide what needs to be in a will and what needs to be in some other vehicle, like a trust. We can help explain to you how the probate process will impact the decisions you are making today so that you can manage and account for that process. We can also help you make your wishes clear to the court, and choose an executor. You can also hire us to be your executor, which gives you the peace of mind that comes with knowing your executor understands how to do the job.

Second, if you have recently lost a loved one and are going through the probate process right now, we can help. We can help you challenge a will that you’ve been cut out of or shortchanged in. We can also help you defend the will against challenge if you’ve been named the personal representative of the deceased.

Chinese Lawyer Vancouver serves clients in Vancouver, Abbotsford, Langley, Surrey, and White Rock. Call to set up an appointment today.

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Please note: The information provided on this website is Not Legal Advice. The information may or may not be accurate. The information is for discussion purposes only. Reliance upon any information provided would not be grounds to advance a claim against Chinese Lawyer Vancouver for providing any advice. In order to get a formal legal opinion upon which you may rely about any specific fact scenario, you would have to first retain the services of a lawyer and request a formal legal opinion.