BC Notaries Work to Ensure Will Instructions are Clear and Complete

While BC Notaries are well aware of the consequences of not having a Will or of having an unclear, poorly prepared Do-It-Yourself Will, surveys show that approximately half the adult population in British Columbia does not have a Will.

In 2020, an online Ipsos survey of 801 BC residents showed only 50% of adults have an up-to-date legal Will.

The survey was commissioned by the BC Notaries Association to align with the Province of BC’s annual “Make-a-Will Week” that encouraged the many British Columbians who don’t have a current Will to prepare one—and families to discuss the topic and future planning.

This year “Make-a-Will Week” was October 3 to 9. BC Notaries joined the Province in conveying that a well-considered legal Will provides peace of mind for the individuals preparing it, as well as for the family and friends left to execute their wishes.

When a BC Notary works with clients to prepare a Will, a pivotal conversation takes place to ensure the Will-preparer has:

  • considered the entirety of the estate, and
  • unambiguously bequeathed the assets to the beneficiaries.

Those conversations are guided by years of experience in the drawing of Wills, said Daniel Boisvert, a Notary in Delta and President of the BC Notaries Association.

“Unclear instructions in a Will can bring into question the person’s intentions and wishes. That ambiguity can result in conflict, with people challenging the Will in Court, and greatly extends the probate period,” said Boisvert. “By meeting with a Notary or other legal professional, we can guide you through the steps, ask questions you might not have considered, and ensure your directions to your executor are clear.”

Homeowners and parents of dependent children are beginning to act on that message.

Data collected by Ipsos for BC Notaries Association last year shows an increase in homeowners having a current Will, 64% versus 57% in 2018, and 49% of parents of children 18 or younger have a Will, up from 34% in 2018.

Still, less than half the families with dependent children have a Will in place. If the Public Guardian and Trustee is brought in to administer the estate, the Province may decide on the future of dependent children and the assets.

When interviewing a client, Notaries often ask clients to bring in old Wills or Will notes they have prepared. When clients have a DIY Will, it is not uncommon for a Notary to identify key issues in those documents, such as forgetting to name a spouse as an executor or primary beneficiary or neglecting to name a beneficiary or beneficiaries for the residue of the estate. If overlooked, those key components may have detrimental effects on the ability of an executor to carry out the Will-maker’s wishes accurately and completely.

Having a professionally drafted Will has the additional benefit of giving third parties—such as banks, other financial institutions, and even the Courts—greater confidence the Will-maker was properly evaluated for competency and capacity at the Will-drafting. That confidence will often make it easier for executors later, when working with those third parties to execute the Will-maker’s wishes.

The start of COVID-19 last year served as a wake-up call for a lot of people who had put off making a Will. Notaries received a significant increase in calls about preparing Wills.

Data from the 2020 Ipsos survey found 27% of people who did not have a Will were more likely to have a Will prepared in the next year due to COVID-19. That figure increased to 37% for parents of children 18 or younger and to 38% for people age 55 or older. BC Notaries continue to urge people to have a Will prepared.

“If we learned anything from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that we don’t know what tomorrow holds,” said Kristy Martin, a Notary in Langford. “Don’t wait until a crisis hits because it can be too late.”


Brenda Jones, MA, BA, APR, is a communications professional based in Victoria, BC.

Posted in Personal Planning