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Common Questions

I think my relative died without making a will

Last reviewed in November 2017 by the Clicklaw Editors

Where a person dies without a will and they owned property, they are said to have died intestate. Their estate (everything he or she owned) is divided according to intestacy laws. Depending on the size of their estate, it may be necessary for it to be managed by an administrator, who must be appointed by the court. The surviving spouse and next of kin are given priority in applying to be the administrator of the estate.

Good starting points include:

  • When Someone Dies Without a Will, from People's Law School, describes how an estate is divided if there is no will, as well as the duties of the administrator.
  • Wills Registry Search, from the BC Vital Statistics Agency, explains how to find out if your relative may have registered a will.
  • Common Questions on Estates and Personal Trusts, from the Public Guardian and Trustee, answers questions about estates where there is no will.
  • Dying Without a Will, from Nidus, explains who has legal authority to settle an estate and gives examples of how an estate must be distributed if there is no will.
  • LSLAP Manual: Wills and Estates, from the UBC Law Students' Legal Advice Program, has a section on "intestacy" – where there is no will. It also has a section on "administration," the legal procedure that is required (depending on the size of the estate) where there is no will.

Need more help?

  • If you have more questions or need further help, for example—please see the Get Help services that are available via the Courthouse Libraries BC Wills Resources page.
  • Wills & Estates Q&A, from People's Law School, is a resource where volunteer legal professionals provide answers to questions from the public relating to wills and estates, and dealing with a death. If you still can't find the answer, they give an option to submit your own question; every effort is made to provide an initial response within 2 business days and a fuller response within 2 weeks. 
  • Lawyer Referral Service, from Access Pro Bono, offers a free initial consultation with a lawyer for up to 30 minutes.
  • Find more help near you on Clicklaw HelpMap.

See our related common questions:

wills, estates, dying without a will, administration, intestacy, filing for a grant of administration