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When moving to a different country, it’s obvious that the estate laws will be quite different than those of your home country, and an old will probably won’t be valid in this new country. An existing will likely requires a significant update to ensure that it is still valid in your new country of residence or, in some cases, a brand new will must be prepared. But, what about when you move to a different province in Canada? Even though all provinces are subject to federal Canadian law, estate laws can vary greatly between provinces. If you are moving provinces or have since you last updated your will, it may be time for a new one.
Every province and territory in Canada has their own separate estate laws. If you prepare your will in Ontario, but later move to British Columbia, the will from Ontario is to be used in BC when you die (assuming a new one isn’t written). Even if your will is valid in Ontario, it can be found invalid in BC and you will risk dying intestate (without a valid will). Often when this happens, the will-writer has no idea that their will is invalid in their new province.
If you’re moving to a different province, you should have your will reviewed by an experienced estate lawyer, who understands the estate laws of your new province of residence. An estate lawyer can go through your will, identifying provisions that might have been valid in your old province of residence, but would be invalid in your new province of residence. Keep in mind that it’s extremely unlikely that you will have to write an entirely new will. Usually, only a few changes will be required, if any. However, it is essential to ensure that your existing will is valid in your new province of residence to ensure your estate will be distributed according to your wishes upon your death.
Another issue to consider after moving to a new province is who the executor of your will is. If your executor does not live near your residence, it can create difficulties for them during the process of administering your estate. If you moved to BC from Québec, it will be extremely difficult for an executor in Québec to administer your estate across the country in BC. This also means that it may take longer for the beneficiaries of your estate to receive their inheritance. Estate administration encompasses a handful of different tasks, some of which require the executor to be physically present. In general, it’s usually recommended that an estate’s executor is someone who lives in the same place as the will-writer. Because of this, you should always consider whether or not your executor should be changed when you move to a new province.
An important concept to understand in estate law is that of a domicile – the place where your permanent residence is. Your domicile determines which country’s or province’s estate laws will be applied to your will. Throughout this blog, when we mentioned “moving to another province” we were referring to someone who is moving, with the intention of making the new province their permanent residence. This means that the old province’s estate laws will be irrelevant to the administration of the individual’s estate. When you pass away, your domicile is where your will is to be executed.
For example, if someone moves to BC, with the intention of staying there for only 3 years before moving back to Alberta, they wouldn’t need to update their will. This individual’s domicile will always be Alberta, even if they are living outside of Alberta temporarily. Regardless of where they die, their will is to be executed in Alberta. For more information, read our blog post on domicile.
If you’re planning to move to another province, contact an experienced estate lawyer to review your pre-existing will. In some cases, nothing will need to be changed; however, you should always have a lawyer in your new province of residence review the documents to be sure that your estate will be distributed exactly as you’re intending. If your will is invalid and you die intestate, the courts will determine how your estate is to be distributed.