In the recent case of Bizicki Estate, 2019 BCSC 2142, the issue before the court was whether handwritten notes left by the deceased were sufficient to count as a Will.
Alex Bizicki passed away while living alone in a downtown Vancouver Hotel. He was a lifelong bachelor, with no children. He had one surviving brother, who passed away 5 months after Alex. As his next of kin, the brother would have been entitled to Alex’s estate had he passed away intestate, or without a Will.
However, Alex had been in a relationship with a woman, Eva Chow, for over 20 years. After Alex passed away, she found 3 notes on separate pieces of paper stating that he wished Eva Chow to receive all the money in his bank accounts as well as his personal property. When he died, he had $272,042.35 in the bank. There was no dispute that Alex had written the notes, the issue was whether the notes should be given “testamentary effect,” i.e. whether they constituted a Will.
In BC, a Will must be properly executed and meet specific requirements in order to be valid. However, section 58 of the Wills, Estates and Succession Act (WESA) gives the court the authority to give testamentary effect to a document, even if it falls short of the requirements of a Will. The question for the court is whether the deceased created or signed the document, and then whether the document records “a deliberate or fixed and final expression of intention as to the disposal of the deceased’s property on death.”
In this case, the court found that each note was written by Alex in contemplation of his death, and addressed what should be done with his property at that time. One note failed to meet the test as it did not specifically address what should be done with the assets, but the other two expressed Alex’s desire that his assets and money go to Eva on death, once his debts and funeral costs were paid.
This case speaks to the importance of proper estate planning to avoid embroiling your loved ones in complicated litigation after death. However, it also speaks to the importance of seeking an opinion after a loved one’s death if you feel that there are questions regarding the validity of or a contradiction between documents.
Our experienced lawyers can provide legal advice at the planning stages, as well as advice on potential Estate Litigation claims.
To read the full judgement, click here.