The B.C. government has passed the Probate Fee Act in response to last year’s Supreme Court of Canada decision that Ontario’s probate fees were unconstitutional. The court declared that Ontario’s probate fees were actually a tax. A tax can only be imposed by an act of the legislature, not by cabinet regulation.
The Probate Fee Act retroactively confirms all past probate fees charged since the fees were introduced in 1988, and continues the present probate tax of 0.6% of that portion of an estate valued between $25,000 and $50,000 and 1.4% of that portion of an estate valued over $50,000.
With proper planning, many estates can be processed without a probate application, and with many others the fees can be reduced. Joint tenancy, gifts, trusts and beneficiary designations (on life insurance, RRSPs, RRIFs and pensions) are some of the strategies that can be used. However, unintended or undesirable consequences can outweigh the savings, and any strategy should be considered only in the context of an overall estate plan.
For more information on this or any other estate planning issue, please contact us at your convenience.