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Multiple Wills Strategy in BC

    Optimizing Estate Planning in British Columbia: Key Considerations for Strategic Will Segregation in BC

    Using multiple Wills is a strategy designed to minimize probate fees. This method involves segregating your assets so that different assets fall under different Wills. A “primary” Will generally covers assets that require probate, such as bank accounts, investment portfolios, and real estate. Meanwhile, a “secondary” Will typically handles assets that don’t necessitate probate, like personal effects and shares held in privately-held companies.

    In BC, it’s essential to have different executors for the primary and secondary Wills — they cannot be the same person. If this strategy is appropriately implemented, your executor can choose to probate only the primary Will, thereby limiting probate fees to only the assets included in that Will.

    Implementing Multiple Wills Strategy in BC

    Though potentially beneficial, the success of this strategy depends largely on precise drafting and correct execution of the Wills. Key considerations include:

    • Ensuring that one Will’s execution does not negate the other
    • Identifying clearly which property each Will addresses to avoid overlaps or misunderstandings
    • Determining which assets are to be used to pay the estate’s debts and expenses

    Particularly in BC, this strategy can be advantageous for individuals holding private company shares of significant value, as these do not usually require probate to transfer ownership.

    Points of Caution

    There can be scenarios where a secondary Will might still require probate. These include situations where a Will is contested, third parties cannot effect a change of ownership of assets, or if an asset which requires probate is mistakenly included in the secondary Will. Creating multiple wills and potentially administering multiple estates can incur higher costs. Consider whether the savings in probate fees would offset these costs​​.

    Probate Benefits

    Despite the potential tax savings with multiple Wills, there are certain benefits to obtaining probate. It initiates the limitation period for claims against the estate, offers protection for the executor and third parties, and officially validates the executor’s legal authority.


    While the multiple Wills strategy may not be suitable for everyone, it is an effective tool worth considering for comprehensive estate planning in British Columbia to potentially reduce probate fees. Always consult with a qualified legal advisor to ensure this strategy is appropriate for your unique circumstances.

    Our team at Ratcliff is experienced in handling estate planning in North Vancouver. We can help you explore your individual circumstances, potential risks, and available estate planning options, including the use of multiple wills.