Admissible extrinsic evidence in S 58 WESA applications to “ cure” defective wills was discussed in Re Mace Estate 2018 BCSC 1284.
In short, the ordinary rules of admissibility apply.
Ordinarily, evidence must be relevant to a live issue and not be subject to exclusion under any other rule of law or policy to be admissible.
Relevance must therefore be assessed on a case-by-case basis , as set out in Regina v White 2011 SCC 13:
“In order for evidence to satisfy the standard of relevance, it must have some tendency is a matter of logic and human experience to make the proposition for which it is advanced, more likely than that proposition would be in the absence of that evidence”.
Under section 58 WESA inquiries to determine, on a balance of probabilities, whether a noncompliant document embodies the deceased testamentary intentions at whatever time is material. The task is inherently challenging because the person best able to speak to these intentions, namely the deceased is not available to testify.
In addition, by their nature, the source of documents being assessed will likely not have been created with legal assistance. Given this context, and subject to the ordinary rules of evidence, the court will benefit from learning as much as possible about all that could illuminate the deceased state of mind, understanding and intention regarding the document.
Accordingly, extrinsic evidence of testamentary intent is admissible on the inquiry –Langseth estate v Gardiner (19990) 75 DLR (4th) 25 at 33 ( Man. CA)
The case authorities discuss that the extrinsic evidence may include events that occurred before, when and after the document was created – the key issue in an application under section 58 is whether, on the balance of probabilities, the item placed before the court, the record or document or writing or marking on a will or document, was intended to have testamentary effect: that is, does it represent the deliberate or fixed and final expression of intention of the material time as to the to the disposal of the will maker’s property on death? The role of the court on an application under section 58 is not to determine the validity of the instrument per se, or the validity of the gifts contained within it, but determine whether the instrument represents the deceased testamentary intention- Re Smith Estate 2016 BCSC 350.
The BC Court of Appeal decision in Re Hadley Estate 2017 BCCA 311 confirm that section 58 of WESA does not require a basic level of compliance with the formalities of making a will. The consideration of the court is whether the document represents the testamentary intentions of its maker. The material time for determining these intentions will in many cases be the time at which the will was made. However, a document may acquire a testamentary character by subsequent and sufficient manifestation of the will maker’s intention.
In addition to the language of the document, extrinsic evidence of testamentary intent is admissible on the inquiry, such as the circumstances surrounding its creation and direct statements of the deceased. Such evidence benefits. The court, since the person who made the document will no longer be available to testify, and often the document will not have been made with the assistance of counsel.
The most common situation in which an application fails is where the court is simply not satisfied that the propounded document or record contains the will maker’s final thoughts are intentions with respect to the will or its alteration, revocation or revival, but is just a draft are some preliminary notes that are subject to change. As one court as put it, the curative provisions allow the court to overlook the formal requirements of the act, but not to speculate on the testamentary intentions of the deceased – Re Archer Estate 2005 SKQB 118 at para. 9