Vancouver Mandarin Chinese Wills Lawyer
We help our Chinese clients navigate the unique challenges of international estate planning. We’ve got extensive experience with cross-border estate planning, and we’re fluent Mandarin speakers.
This means that you can do your estate planning in the language you’re most comfortable speaking, and can feel confident knowing that a language barrier will not prevent you from managing the wills and estates process.
We will help you create a will that will hold up under British Columbia law, that will be protected from challenges, and which will leave you with peace of mind about the future of your family and your business affairs.
Can Anyone Make a Will, or Do You Need a Will Lawyer?
Anyone can make a will, but a will lawyer is a very good idea. If your will does not comply with the Wills, Estates, and Succession Act of British Columbia then it is open to challenge. In some cases, invalid wills will force the courts to treat your estate as if you’d never made a will in the first place.
Obtaining a will lawyer is even more important for Chinese immigrants. This is because you may be facing cross-border tax, property, and guardianship issues that must be taken into account. If you have minor children and if immigration law may come into play then your only hope of seeing your wishes honored will be to consult with a wills and estates lawyer.
Why Should You Make a Will?
If you do not make a will you die intestate. This means several things.
First, it means that if you have minor children then the courts will decide who will raise and care for those children after you are gone.
Second, it means that you will have no say in how your estate is decided.
If you have a spouse and no children then the entire estate goes to your spouse. If you have a spouse and children, then the estate will be divided thusly:
- If all of your children are also your spouse’s children, the spouse gets the first $300,000 of the estate and half of what’s left over. The other half is divided equally among the children.
- If you have children from another marriage then the spouse gets the first $150,000 of the estate and half of what’s left over, with the other half being divided equally among the children.
- If there is no spouse, the estate is divided equally among all children.
- If there are no children, but there are grandchildren, the grandchildren, as descendents, get the estate.
- If there is no spouse and no children it goes first to parents, then to siblings, and then to the next nearest next-of-kin.
The spouse also gets the right to the family home.
A person does not have to be married under Canadian Law to count as a “spouse.” Common law marriages are a feature of Canadian life and are recognized under family law, immigration law, and wills and estate law. It’s even possible to legally have two people who are eligible to claim the estate as your “spouse.”
If you wish to see any other arrangement and have more than $100,000 in assets then it is wise to create a will.
In addition, if you do not have a will then you cannot name your executor. This means that the court will appoint a public administrator instead. This person will not have known you, and will not know your family. While they are bound by law to execute the estate in accordance with the Wills and Estates Act, you might prefer to choose your own executor.
What Can I Put in My Will?
You list each piece of property you own and who it should go to. This includes money, personal belongings, high-value assets like stocks, cryptocurrency, or bonds, and real estate property. Do not include any assets that will transfer without need to refer to a will. For example, if you have already created a trust fund for your child and have named that child as the beneficiary, then it is unnecessary to include that fund in your will. The trust will pass to your child after you die.
You also name who you wish to execute your wishes after you are gone.
If you have minor children, you should name who you wish to take care of those children after you have died.
The will needs to be signed both by you and two witnesses who are there at the same time and who are over the age of 18. The witnesses are there to confirm that you were of sound mind and capable of understanding and managing your own affairs at the time that the will was created.
Can My Will Be Changed?
Yes. You can prepare a new will at any time. As you gain more property or as your circumstances changes, you might wish to update the will. You will definitely wish to make updates if you get married or divorced, if you have additional children, or if you acquire significant assets above and beyond what you already had at the time that the first will was created.
The newest version of the will cancels all previous versions.
Keep in mind that you should not change a will without a lawyer’s help any more than you should try making a will without a lawyer’s help. If the court finds your new will to be invalid, or if they believe you made the will under duress or at a time you were not of sound mind and body, then they can revert back to an earlier version of a will.
How Can I Make a Will?
To make a will you must be over the age of 16, and of sound mind. In general, it’s best to have your lawyer draft up your will for you after going over all of your estate planning options. You’ll then sign the will at the law office with two law-office provided, objective witnesses.
This prevents your will from being open to challenge.
Note that holographic, or handwritten, wills are not legal or valid in British Columbia. We also advise against using “will kits” or Internet wills. Estate planning is extremely complex, even if it seems like it should be easy or straightforward to you.
This is especially true for our Chinese clients, who often have assets in other provinces, in China, in Hong Kong, and in the United States. These sorts of issues of jurisdiction, international tax laws, and multiple inheritance laws can make it difficult to ensure that your plan is honored unless you get legal help.
How Should I Choose My Executors?
One option is to hire our law office. Executing a will is a legal matter that creates a fiduciary duty to every beneficiary. Few laypeople have the skills, and many would be uncomfortable or even afraid to try to manage the process themselves. A licensed lawyer in good standing has already proven they have the skills and the integrity to get the job done. It also helps to pick an executor who has no stake in the will.
If you don’t want to hire our law office, you should find someone who has good financial skills, who you trust, and someone who is patient and capable of managing the situation when emotions get high. The death of a loved one is emotional. The dividing of an estate is emotional. There will be family members of yours who might doubt your love and care for them if they feel they were slighted during the will-making process. An executor has to be ready to handle all these things. In general, it’s better if your executor either gets along with your family members, or is capable of getting along with them.
You also don’t want to pick someone who will try to move into one of your properties and who will attempt to stay there indefinitely. While the courts will deal with a situation like this eventually it can cause your family considerable distress. Ousting a bad executor can become expensive and delays the disbursement of the estate.
How Can Our Vancouver Mandarin Chinese Wills Lawyer Help You?
We are a multi-disciplinary law office that also practices real estate law and business law. This means we have the broad-based background that it takes to create an air tight estate plan.
All you have to do is bring your goals and financial documents so that we can help you with your unique situation.
We understand that talking about death and dying are taboo in China, but it is legally necessary to plan for your death here in Canada. We will work with you to make the process as comfortable and as respectful as possible.
Chinese Lawyer Vancouver serves clients in Vancouver, Abbotsford, Langley, Surrey, and White Rock. Call to set up an appointment today.