It is often said that there are two certainties in life: death and taxes. When someone dies in BC, these two certainties become reality.

One of the areas of law which I practice is probate law. Probate refers to the legal process of settling someone's estate after their death. This process attracts a tax on the deceased persons' estate known as probate costs or fees.

One of the questions that I am often asked while acting as legal counsel on an estate matter in BC is: "what will my probate fees be?" The legislation that allows lawyers to navigate the issue of probate costs in BC is the Probate Fee Act, SBC 1999, c4 (the "Act"). The starting point is to determine the gross value (without deductions) of the estate according to the definition in the Act. It is noteworthy that all real estate and tangible personal property (ie cash, vehicles, jewellery, etc) will need to be identified and valued to determine the value of the estate.

To initiate the probate process, the personal representative of the deceased must file an Affidavit in Court exhibiting a Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Distribution which sets out the value of the estate. This in turn determines the probate fees to be calculated.

Section 2 of the Act provides the detailed guide for fees payable and they are as follows:

  • For Estates Valued up to $25,000: No probate fees are required.
  • Estates Between $25,001 and $50,000: These estates are subject to a modest probate fee of 0.6% of the estates value.
  • Estates Over $50,001: For estates exceeding $50,001, the probate fee is set at 1.4% of the estates value.

In addition to the fees payable, Court filing fees are also applicable.

The personal representative of the deceased is always required to pay any fees applicable at the outset of the probate process. These probate costs are reimbursed once probate is granted.

Navigating probate costs in BC and the probate process in general requires legal knowledge and it is in the best interests of the executor named in a Will to consult with a lawyer to understand the complexities of the process, one of which is the probate costs payable.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.