My spouse died and left everything to me. What should I do next?

Losing a spouse is a traumatic experience that naturally produces strong feelings.  What is worse, added to the loss and grief is the sudden recognition that “the estate” must be dealt with.

After caring for your spouse’s remains you will receive an official death certificate from the funeral director who assisted you.  This is an important document for administering the estate and it is advisable to get at least two of these certificates.

If all of your spouse’s assets and liabilities are held jointly with you, your tasks to administer the estate may be relatively straight-forward and not take too long to handle.  For example, using the death certificate, you can quickly remove your spouse’s name from joint bank and investment accounts.

Other common points to consider include:

  • Inquire if you qualify for a survivor pension or death benefit from your spouse’s employment or pension plan.
  • Discuss your spouse’s final income tax returns with an accountant.
  • If there is jointly-held real estate, update the land title (you may enlist the help of a lawyer with this).
  • Review your own estate plan, including will, power of attorney, and representation agreement.

This article assumes the deceased was primarily resident in British Columbia.  It is not a substitute for accounting and legal advice.

Beacon Law Centre offers surviving spouses a no-obligation initial consultation. This provides an opportunity to discuss your situation in a safe and confidential setting, to gain reassurance about the next steps needed, and to receive a quotation if further legal help is needed.


I wanted to say thank you for your help with making out our wills. We have not needed legal advice until now so I was not looking forward to searching for a lawyer that I trust. You made the whole process easy to understand and my wife and I feel that, with your guidance, we were able to make the proper decisions in regards to our children’s future. I would have no problem recommending you as you are friendly, professional, you listened to our needs, and you are affordable. Thank you for helping us know that our children will be safe and secure if we aren’t around to take care of them.


This is just a quick note to let you know how much we appreciated your personal service in preparing a power of attorney for my mother last month. As you know, Mom is quite challenged with the English language and she needs a lot of clarifications. Your draft given to her ahead of time, your use of regular language rather than legalese and your patience with her in your office meant so much to her. She was just as much at ease as when she conducts business in her native French language. So, once again, many thanks for the human touch.


I can’t say enough about our satisfaction with Lianne Macdonald. She was extremely patient and understanding and helped us attain our wishes with our will. She gave legal advice but helped us to fulfill our wishes in a way that worked for us.


Del was patient, considerate, listened to my issues and treated me with professionalism and respect. Del put in extra thought in drawing up my will by thinking through the legal consequences of different options.