Wills made before March 31, 2014 , are still subject to the strict rules of compliance that existed prior to when WESA came into force as per Public Guardian BC v Sheaffer et al 2015 BCSC 1306.
The deceased died in 2011 leaving a 1974 will that was unsigned. The court found it void as the curative provisions of s 58 WESA do not apply to deaths before March 31, 2014.
The Law For Deaths Prior to March 31, 2014 re Wills
It was well-settled in British Columbia, prior to the enactment of the WESA, that it was necessary to strictly comply with the statutorily prescribed formalities for creating a will. The courts have no discretion in waiving those requirements. In Ellis v. Turner (1997), 43 B.C.L.R. 283 (C.A.), the Court of Appeal commented on these strict compliance provisions, at 285:
The Wills Act creates a scheme designed to insure that a document purporting to be a testamentary disposition is in fact the will of the testator. A strong indicia of authenticity is proof that the will was signed at its end in the presence of witnesses. This Court must interpret, apply and respect the law as passed by the legislature. To declare the will in this case to be valid would be to by-pass the clear provisions of the Wills Act and to create a discretion in this Court which is not found in the Act. This is something which we cannot do.
26 The formalities for execution have been incorporated into s. 37 of the WESA. However, the WESA has introduced a remedial provision in s. 58 that gives the court a broad authority to “cure” a purported will, an alteration to a will, or the revocation of a will that does not satisfy the signing and witnessing requirements prescribed by s. 37. Section 58 constitutes a key component of the modernization of the law of wills and succession in British Columbia because it empowers the court to uphold the will-maker’s true intentions even where the will, a gift under the will, or a purported alteration or revocation of the will is invalid pursuant to other provisions of the WESA.
27 The application of s. 58 extends to “a record, document or writing or marking on a will or document”.
The pertinent provisions of the WESA provide as follows:
58 (1) In this section, “record” includes data that
(a) is recorded or stored electronically,
(b) can be read by a person, and
(c) is capable of reproduction in a visible form.
(2) On application, the court may make an order under subsection (3) if the court determines that a record, document or writing or marking on a will or document represents
(a) the testamentary intentions of a deceased person,
(b) the intention of a deceased person to revoke, alter or revive a will or testamentary disposition of the deceased person, or
(c) the intention of a deceased person to revoke, alter or revive a testamentary disposition contained in a document other than a will.
(3) Even though the making, revocation, alteration or revival of a will does not comply with this Act, the court may, as the circumstances require, order that a record or document or writing or marking on a will or document be fully effective as though it had been made
(a) as the will or part of the will of the deceased person,
(b) as a revocation, alteration or revival of a will of the deceased person, or
(c) as the testamentary intention of the deceased person.
(4) If an alteration to a will makes a word or provision illegible and the court is satisfied that the alteration was not made in accordance with this Act, the court may reinstate the original word or provision if there is evidence to establish what the original word or provision was.
186 (1) Subject to subsections (2) and (3) of this section and section 189, Part 4 [Wills] applies to a will, whenever executed, if the will-maker dies on or after the date on which Part 4 comes into force.
(2) Subsection (1) does not invalidate a will validly made before the date on which Part 4 comes into force.
(3) Subsection (1) does not revive a will validly revoked before the date on which Part 4 comes into force.
Trevor Todd is one of the province’s most esteemed estate litigation lawyers. He has spent more than 45 years helping the disinherited contest wills and transfers – and win. From his Kerrisdale office, which looks more like an eclectic art gallery than a lawyer’s office, Trevor empowers claimants and restores dignity to families across BC. He is a mentor to young entrepreneurs and an art buff who supports starving artists the world over. He has an eye for talent and a heart for giving back.