This month I have come across several different scenarios on properties where someone has passed away and I wish to share some of these stories. 

  1. Passing away with no will. This is the most challenging situation because so many things can happen. These are the two situations I have seen this month alone with no will. Case 1. No one wanted to be the administrator of the will as the entire family lived overseas and had no real connection with the deceased. There was also a mortgage on the property which would had to be paid while going through the probate process. Result: The house fell into major disrepair including squatters and vermin living in the house. Eventually the bank foreclosed on the property. Case 2. A family member was designated an administrator (which took over a year to grant), probate fees, property taxes had to be paid out of pocket. The house sat vacant for over a year waiting for permission to be granted to the Administrator for the estate resulting in wear and tear on the property including critters getting in to the house and it is now less marketable. 

  2. Passing away with a will and then not taking any action.  The deceased passed away in 2008 and no action was taken on the property. Now the remaining person on title wishes to sell the property but the property must go through probate as the seller was not on as a joint tenant. They thought they were joint tenants, and now that so much time has passed, collecting the paperwork has become very challenging. As well, Will and Estate law has changed several times since 2008.

  3. Passing away and willing all the possessions to charity.  This person had no heirs and wished to sell their property and leave everything to charity. The executor still must get the house cleaned out and ready to sell. The charities need to be informed and the house and household goods liquidated. 

  4. Passing away with a will, family moves quickly to ensure that probate is granted. The house is cleaned, painted and new carpet put in. The house sells quickly, for more than asking.  

I have been advised by different lawyers about the length of time for a will to go through the court process and for probate to be granted. I have been advised anywhere between two and eight months if there is a will. My advice is to shop around and find a lawyer who can process the will more quickly, to ensure the house does not sit vacant for long. The longer a property sits vacant, the more challenging it is to get ready to sell. Houses don’t like to be empty.

Wills and estates - Province of British Columbia (

So spend the money and get your will in place. It is what protects your assets and will save your family, friends and neighbours a lot of grief.