Probate in BC during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The current COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically altered the day-to-day operations of the British Columbia Supreme Court. The British Columbia Supreme Court suspended all regular operations as of March 19, 2020, and adjourned all non-urgent matters until May 29, 2020, or until the Court directs otherwise. Please review the most current Court updates here.

Probate

The Courts perform many important functions, including probating wills as part of the administration of an estate. In granting probate, the Court certifies that the will, or document submitted as a will, is valid and confirms the appointment of the executor(s). A grant of probate is usually required before the assets of an estate may be distributed to the people entitled to receive them. However, not every estate requires a grant of probate.  When there is no will, the Court will appoint an administrator (instead of an executor) to administer the estate.

Grant of Probate applications during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Probate Registry is still accepting and processing applications for grants of probate. The original will must be filed with the Court as part of the probate application and therefore cannot be filed online. Probate applications may be dropped off in-person, or through an agent, at the Secure Drop Box available at the Supreme Court registries, or mailed in.

Under the most recent Ministerial Order (No. MO86), almost all limitation periods and mandatory time periods for starting a proceeding are suspended, which includes submitting a probate application. Therefore, if an application is filed after March 19, 2020, the Probate Registry will not issue a grant.

Part of the probate procedure requires the applicant to give certain individuals notice of the proposed application, for example, each person who will benefit under the will. The applicant gives notice by sending out a P1 Notice (Form P1, Notice of Proposed Application in Relation to Estate). The applicant is required to wait 21 days after giving notice before submitting an application for a grant of probate. This time allows interested parties to have an opportunity to oppose the application. The 21 day waiting period between sending the P1 Notice and the filing of the application for an estate grant is still in effect.

It can take a few months for the Probate Registry to process probate applications. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we should expect increased delay in approving applications.

If you require legal advice or assistance with estate matters, please contact a lawyer in our Wills, Trusts, and Estates Practice Group.

Categories: COVID-19, Wills and Estates