If a relative or loved one dies in British Columbia without leaving a will, or leaves a will that appoints an executor who cannot or will not serve, you may find yourself needing to file for a grant of administration. This legal authorization permits someone to manage both the assets and liabilities of a deceased person’s estate.
Being named the executor of a deceased person's will and administering the estate is a complex undertaking. Start off the process right by familiarizing yourself with your obligations. Don't hesitate to retain the assistance of an attorney to assist you.
When a Grant of Administration May Be Issued
In British Columbia, this authority is issued by the Probate Registry in three specific circumstances:
- If the deceased person died without a will;
- If the deceased person had a will, but named an executor who died after the will was signed and the will contains no provisions for an alternate executor; or
- If the named executor declines to serve or apply to the court for probate of the estate.
Hiring an Attorney
While an individual may apply for a grant of administration without attorney representation, you may hire a lawyer to assist you in the process if you wish.
Make sure the attorney you retain is experienced in matters related to wills and probate. Also, remember that the fees charged by your attorney are considered a reasonable and proper expense of the estate, and thus may be paid out of the estate’s assets, subject to the approval of the beneficiaries, heirs-at-law or the court.
If you choose to proceed without an attorney, however, you should be aware that applicants who proceed pro se (i.e., without the assistance of an attorney) are held to a high standard. You must be well-prepared in terms of court procedure. In addition, the proceedings will require a great deal of paperwork which must be completed accurately and on time.
Who Can Apply
The deceased person's spouse has the first right to apply for letters of administration. If the spouse declines, or if there is no surviving spouse, then the deceased person's child or other relative may do so. Otherwise, the Public Guardian may administer the estate.
The Process of Applying for a Grant of Administration
To begin the process, first compile a set of the requisite forms for the Probate Registry.
These forms include proof that:
- There is no will;
- Others who might want to be the administrator have been notified and any with greater claims than yours to administer have renounced their rights to do so, and;
- You are competent to administer the estate.
You also need to file an itemized list of the main assets of the estate and their approximate value. For examples of the forms, refer to a self-help manual for probate and administration in British Columbia or consult the official British Columbia Supreme Court website.
File the forms at the Probate Registry. In Vancouver, the office is located in the BC Supreme Court at 800 Smithe Street, 604-660-2876. For other locations, you can call the Supreme Court of BC Probate Registry at 800-663-7867.
Once your application has been filed, you may have to wait some period of time for a response from the Registrar indicating a decision. If the estate is large or if you did not complete the forms properly, there may be a court hearing to determine the course of future proceedings or correct any existing errors.