Today In Interesting B.C. Law: The Law That Lets Judges Rewrite Your Last Will

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BC Law Rewrite Will

Every town, city, province, and country has its own quirky laws.

One of British Columbia’s that has recently gotten some attention: Under certain circumstances, judges can re-write a person’s last will, even after they’ve passed away.

The Law

Detailed under Part 4, Division 6 of the Wills, Estates, and Succession Act, which was passed in 2009:

“Despite any law or enactment to the contrary, if a will-maker dies leaving a will that does not, in the court’s opinion, make adequate provision for the proper maintenance and support of the will-maker’s spouse or children, the court may, in a proceeding by or on behalf of the spouse or children, order that the provision that it thinks adequate, just and equitable in the circumstances be made out of the will-maker’s estate for the spouse or children.”

Translation: If a judge decides that a will is unfair, the judge has the legal power to re-write it in a way that makes it fair.

The intention behind it is to provide a possible remedy to a situation where a will is irrationally unfair, or discriminatory, to a spouse or child.

While those are good intentions, it remains to be seen whether or not this power could potentially be mis-used in cases where the discriminatory reasons are not as clear-cut.

Case In Point

One such case where the benefits of this was shown occurred just this month, involving the Litt family, an Indian family who owned a series of farms in Richmond and the Fraser Valley.

According to Wally Oppal, B.C.’s attorney general from 2005 to 2009, when their parents passed away, the four Litt sisters were set to inherit 7% of the $9 million estate, while their two brothers were to inherit the remaining 93%.

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The sisters decided to take their brothers to court to challenge the will, arguing that, according to CBC, “it was discriminatory — valuing the brothers more highly because they are men, even though the sisters helped build the family’s farm estate in B.C. and cared for their ailing parents before they died.”

The sisters were not looking for anything other than a fair share to an estate they helped build, and the existence of this law allowed them to do so.

“One of the main reasons also that we went to court was so that other people — and there are many other people in our situation, many Indo-Canadian women, yes, but many other people that are in the same situation where they’re not treated fairly either because of their life choices or because they’re a boy or a girl — and we wanted to go to court to try to give other people the courage to step forward and do that.”

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