Chilliwack Lawyers

Estate Litigation Lawyers

Estate Litigation

How Can We Help You?

    Resolving Conflicts

    Zacharias Vickers McCann helps resolve conflicts related to estates that arise when a loved one or a person you know passes away. Our lawyers at Zacharias Vickers McCann can assist you with various issues including the following:

    • Conflict resolution;
    • Wills Variation claims;
    • Claims or concerns regarding undue influence and/or resulting trusts;
    • Disputes about the capacity of a will-maker to make a will;
    • Concerns about the transfer of property;
    • Disputes about the validity of a will;
    • Will interpretation and construction;
    • Contested estates; and
    • Actions to compel executors or trustees to properly carry out their duties.

    Our Estate Litigation Team


    Brian Vickers


    Kim Ashley


    Curing Defective Wills

    A will-maker must observe certain formalities prescribed by law in order for his or her will to be valid.  A valid will must be in writing, signed by the will-maker, and properly witnessed. It must also be made by a person having sufficient mental capacity to do so. Historically, the common law has been strict to uphold these requirements. Wills failing to observe these formalities were declared invalid by the court and in the process, the testamentary intentions of the will-maker were ignored. This led to unjust results, both for the will-maker and for any intended beneficiaries.

    With the introduction of the Wills, Estate and Succession Act (WESA) in 2014, British Columbia sought to relieve against the consequences of wills that fail to comply with the formalities prescribed by law. In cases where a document reflects the testamentary intentions of a deceased person, the court may now declare that document to be fully effective as though it were a valid will.

    Applications to cure a defective will are incredibly fact sensitive. The court must look at a number of factors to determine whether the will represents the “fixed and final intentions” of the will-maker. Some of the factors include the following:

    • The presence of the deceased’s signature;
    • The deceased’s handwriting;
    • Witness signatures;
    • Revocation of previous wills;
    • Funeral arrangements;
    • Specific bequests; and
    • The title of the document (e.g. “Last Will and Testament”)

    Gathering the necessary evidence to support a claim to cure a defective will can be a complicated process. Our estate litigation lawyers at Zacharias Vickers McCann have experience bringing forward these types of applications and are here to provide you with a knowledgeable and objective opinion with respect to your claim.

    Wills Variation

    A will-maker has both a moral and legal duty to give fair consideration to their spouse and children when preparing a will. Unfortunately, this duty is not always followed and as a consequence, it is possible for a surviving spouse or child to be effectively cut out of a loved one’s will.

    In British Columbia, the Court is given broad discretion under the Wills, Estate and Succession Act (WESA) to vary a will in cases where a spouse or child of a will-maker has not been adequately supported within a will, or has been disinherited completely. In such a case, the Court can vary the provisions in a will in a manner that it believes to be just and equitable.

    The question of whether a will-maker has made fair consideration in his or her will for the proper maintenance and support of a spouse or child depends on the facts of each circumstance. The court can take into account a number of factors when deciding to vary a will including, but not limited to, the following:

    • The size of the will-maker’s estate;
    • The nature of the will-maker’s relationship with the spouse or child;
    • The actual needs of the spouse or child;
    • The contributions of the spouse or child to the will-maker’s life; and
    • The will-maker’s intentions and reasons for making his or her will.

    The WESA provides a very short window of opportunity for a wills variation claim to be made. Wills Variation claims must be brought within 180 days of the will being granted probate by the Court.

    If you believe you have been unfairly disinherited, it is important to seek legal advice from one of our estate litigation lawyers as soon as possible. Failure to contact us in time may cause your limitation period to lapse and seriously jeopardize, or even bar, your claim.

    Challenging Gifts Made Prior To Death

    A will is a deeply personal and carefully prepared document that reflects a person’s testamentary intention as to how they would like to dispose of their assets at the end of their life. In some cases, however, a person may have disposed of all, or most, of their assets prior to their death. In such instances, the estate does not accurately reflect the fullness of the deceased’s assets. Common instances in which this can occur are when a person:

    • Is unduly influenced by friends or family to transfer property or assets before death;
    • Provides friends or family the use or title to property or assets with the intention that it will return to the estate upon death; or
    • Unjustly enriches a friend or family member.

    When a estate has been diminished prior to the passing of your loved one, those closest to the deceased expecting to inherit property or assets through the estate may experience hardship and loss. Others may gain an interest in the deceased person’s estate that were never intended to.

    In British Columbia, the Court has the power to collapse or reverse transactions made by the will-maker before their death. Challenging these transactions can be a complicated and emotionally difficult process for those involved.

    If you have concerns about the distribution of assets prior to your loved one passing away, our estate litigation lawyers at Zacharias Vickers McCann have experience with these types of claims and are here to provide trusted advice to executors, administrators, and beneficiaries in regard to these matters.