Legal Services for Individuals & Families

Planning Your Estate


The term beneficiary is used to describe any person or entity that inherits property from your estate. Most beneficiaries are named in the Will and receive their assets once the Executor or Trustee is in a position to distribute the estate. In some cases where the named beneficiary in a Will is also deceased, the assets pass to another entity or person, referred to as contingent beneficiary. Restrictions can be imposed to limit the individuals that qualify as a contingent beneficiary. Restrictions can also be included in a Will that limit what a beneficiary can receive based on certain criteria. Beneficiaries can also be named on assets that do not form part of the estate at death, including: RRSPs, RIFs and life insurance.

When Is a New Will Required?

You should consider changing your Will whenever you experience a significant change in wealth, or when a major change in your personal circumstances occurs, like a divorce or marriage. It is generally considered good practice to review your Will every few years in order to make sure that it remains relevant. If your Will no longer reflects your estate planning goals, then a new Will should be drafted. A new Will is also required if you decide to change beneficiaries.

It is important that you review your Will following a change in your marital status. Under the current laws in British Columbia, upon marriage, a Will is automatically revoked unless it states specifically that the Will was written in contemplation of the marriage. Similarly if you divorce after making a Will, unless there is a specific statement to the contrary therein, your ex-spouse is deemed to have predeceased you.


Intestacy is a term that is commonly used to refer to the estate of a person who has not made a valid Will at the time of their death.

If you die intestate, then the Estate Administration Act is legislates to the Court how your property will be distributed. In addition, the Court will appoint an Administrator who will manage the affairs of your estate. If you are leaving behind a child under the age of 19, then that child’s interest in your estate will be held in trust by the Public Guardian and Trustee of British Columbia until the child reaches the age of majority, which is currently age 19.

Testamentary Trusts

Testamentary trusts are financial tools which are set up in those instances where a Will maker decides that a beneficiary of their Will is better served if a third party is assigned to hold onto the property that the beneficary inherits. For example, testamentary trusts are often put in place for children or grandchildren who may inherit sizeable estates prior to reaching adulthood or even beyond. Trusts of varying complexity can be established and are always administered by a Trustee and regulated by the Trustee Act as well as the terms of the testamentary trust set out in the Will.

Inter Vivos Trusts

We have experience in preparing the following Inter Vivos Trusts that may be an integral part of an individual or couple’s estate plan:

  • Family Trusts as part of an estate freeze and corporate reorganization
  • Joint Partner Trusts
  • Alter-Ego Trusts

Contact our Estate Planning Lawyers

McQuarrie Hunter LLP’s lawyers have the experience required to manage all your estate planning needs. From the complex to the relatively simple, our lawyers are able to construct an estate plan that serves your interests and, by extension, the interests of your family. By contacting the lawyers at McQuarrie Hunter LLP you will be taking the first step towards creating an estate plan that will ensure the security of your family’s future.

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