Skip to main content

As a beneficiary or someone who anticipated being named one, a will’s validity holds significant weight in ensuring your inheritance. If you have any doubts about a spouse’s or parent’s will, you are well within your right to question if it’s valid or not. However, wills disputes in British Columbia are not as straightforward as they previously were. The Wills, Estates and Succession Act, created a decade ago, has made will contests much more nuanced. Understanding the factors that can potentially invalidate a will or not is crucial for those who stand to benefit from an inheritance.

What Makes a Will Valid?

There are three requirements every will must fulfill. The document must be:

In writing
Have a signature at the end
Be properly witnessed by two individuals

Valid wills can be revoked only if the will-maker creates a new will, declares in writing they are revoking all or part of a previous will, or destroys their will with the intent to revoke it.

What Makes a Will Invalid?

If an individual believes a will is invalid, they may choose to contest it. There are a few grounds wills can be contested under that would deem the document invalid.

Insufficient Testamentary Capacity
This occurs when a will-maker lacks the cognitive ability to create a will and understand what gifts, stipulations, and ramifications have been established within the document.

Undue Influence
Undue influence occurs when a will-maker is coerced in some fashion, whether it be threats of harm, harassment, or other mistreatment, by a vested third party with the intent to alter provisions in the will in ways that do not reflect the will-maker’s true intentions.

Improper Execution
In cases of improper execution, the will in question did not meet at least one of the three main requirements mentioned above.

Fraud or Forgery
In these disputes, it is alleged the benefactor was not responsible for creating their own will and rather another individual faked or forged the will.

Unfair Provisions
In select circumstances, it is possible to invalidate parts of a will due to unfairness. A will-maker’s spouse and children are entitled to “adequate provision[s] for the proper maintenance and support.” If the court feels that the will in question does not adhere to this legal standard, a judge can make provisions to fulfill this requirement, altering parts of a will.

Legally Challenging a Will

Before 2014, will disputes were fairly clear-cut. However, legislation additions now allow a judge to deem a will valid even if the base conditions aren’t met exactly. So, in situations where a will is not written, signed, or legally witnessed, the courts can amend and fix a will to become valid if deemed appropriate. Courts can rectify a will if the document fails to carry out a will-maker’s true intentions due to errors caused by accidental omissions, mistakes, misunderstandings, or misrepresentations.