We worked towards our estate plan but struggled with identifying options that make sense for our family. When we met with Marissa, she was approachable, knowledgeable and discreet. Marissa asked the right questions and explained complex options in simple terms to resolve our concerns and identify our key decision points.
Our boutique firm is uniquely positioned and qualified to offer both estate planning and estate administration for both BC and Alberta clients.
Our Approach to
What We Do
Law is inherently technical and ever changing. We value continuing education and staying informed of any change in the law so we can provide all of our clients with up-to-date, professional advice.
Peace of Mind
We take pride in making sure that the documents we prepare reflect our client’s wishes. We care about answering any questions you have along the way. We’ll help guide you through every step and explain any legal jargon so you always get a complete picture of what your final documents actually mean.
Law is complex and when it comes to wills and estates it can also be difficult to apply to your unique situation. We like to have an in-depth discussion with you so that we fully understand your circumstances and are able to design a tailored solution to meet your needs.
In your will you can name an executor, guardian, beneficiaries and set up testamentary trusts. Its also important to understand what assets transfer outside of your will. As necessary, we can prepare additional documents such as Beneficiary Designations, Deeds of Gift, or Bare Trusts to complete your estate plan.
Get help setting up enduring powers of attorney and composing representation agreements or personal directives so your affairs will be taken care of by someone you trust if you lose capacity.
Set up inter vivos family trusts, alter ego trusts, or joint partner trusts to protect assets and minimize probate fees.
Estate Planning FAQs
To make a valid will in either BC or Alberta, it must be in writing, signed and witnessed by two witnesses in a manner that complies with the legislation. In BC, a will in electronic form satisfies the “in writing” requirement. In Alberta, a holographic will may be valid even if not witnessed provided it is wholly in the testator’s own handwriting (not typed) and signed by testator. In both BC and Alberta, if a will is invalid, an application may be made to court for an order that it is effective.
If you pass away without a will you are said to be “intestate”. If you die intestate, each province has its own legislation which will apply to distribute your estate in a certain manner. In both BC and Alberta, if you pass away with a spouse and no descendants your estate will go to your spouse. However, BC and Alberta can have very different intestate distribution schemes. For example, if you pass with a spouse and descendants who are also descendants of your spouse: in Alberta, the entirety of the intestate estate would go to the spouse, but in BC the spouse would receive a preferential share of $300,000 or a greater amount if prescribed and half of the residue, while the descendants would receive the other half of the residue.
It is important to document your intentions so that your wishes can be carried out if you lose capacity and when you pass away. If not, the legislation will govern. This may result in someone being given authority to manage your estate who you wouldn’t have chosen and your estate being distributed to people you wouldn’t have chosen. Planning puts you in the driver’s seat and allows you to have control over what happens. If you do not plan for incapacity, then a court appointed committee, guardian, or trustee will need to be appointed which is more costly than preparing the documents in advance.
Marriage in BC doesn’t revoke a will, so to ensure your new spouse inherits what you’d like, you may need to draft a new will. In Alberta, a will is not revoked by marriage if the marriage occurred on or after February 1, 2012.
It’s important to keep originally signed estate planning documents secure so that they can take effect when the time comes. In addition, people often want to keep their will confidential and not disclose the contents during their life. Oak Tree Estate Law offers a Secure Storage service where we hold estate planning documents in a Gardex Fireproof vault. Our clients provide authorization for us to release their documents to approved individuals in certain circumstances.
Our experience with Marissa German as our wills and estate lawyer was exceptional. She asked us detailed questions, drafted up all documentation and then walked us through the process before finalizing all the associated documents. We have great peace of mind knowing how professionally something this important was handled. We found her especially knowledgeable in approaching some of the more nuanced topics while also providing much needed context and options in order to prioritize documentation that fit our family’s needs.
Grants of Probate or Administration
End-to-end, we can advise you on the type of grant required to be obtained, prepare the court forms and file the appropriate documentation at court.
Advising Executors & Trustees
Being an executor or trustee takes a lot of time and imposes a lot of responsibility. We’ll provide guidance and explain your duties, the legal steps that are required, and how you can protect yourself from liability. We’ll prepare legal documentation and court applications as necessary, provide advice on estate challenges, and assist with communication and reporting to beneficiaries.
If someone has named you a beneficiary in their will, the legal process an estate goes through prior to you receiving your gift can be confusing. We’ll walk you through the steps of estate administration and provide support if you have questions or encounter difficulties in how the estate is being administered.
Probate Fee Calculator
Estate Administration FAQs
Estate administration is the process of managing someone’s estate after they pass away. We can assist executors with estate administration by:
- Advising executors of their duties and responsibilities
- Providing advice regarding joint assets
- Identifying and valuing estate assets
- Advising on the validity of a will
- Obtaining wills notice search results
- Providing legal notice to those required
- Preparing and filing court forms for a Grant of Probate
- Communicating and reporting to beneficiaries
- Assisting with estate accounting
- Advising on estate challenges and litigation
- Preparing transfer documents to transfer ownership from the deceased to beneficiaries
- Preparing releases and advising on setting up and maintaining testamentary trusts
Probate is the court’s confirmation that a will is valid and an executor has authority to speak on behalf of an estate. Third parties can rely on the court Grant of Probate to confirm they are taking instructions from the proper executor. Both the Land Title and Survey Authority of British Columbia and the Alberta Land Titles Office will not transfer title to land which is registered in a deceased person’s sole name until they are provided with a Grant.
Generally, if the balance in a bank account is more than twenty thousand, a financial institution will require probate before they release the account to an executor.
As a first step, an executor must provide notice of the proposed application for a Grant of Probate to the persons required by the Supreme Court Civil Rules. This must be completed 21 days prior to an executor submitting the application for a Grant of Probate.
After an application is submitted to court, the court review takes a few weeks to a few months before a Grant of Probate is issued. If litigation is commenced, this may delay the issuance of a Grant of Probate.
Many Albertans own a BC cottage or vacation property. If someone resident in Alberta dies owing BC property, the BC Land Title and Survey Authority will not transfer title on the authority of a Grant of Probate issued by an Alberta court. If a Grant of Probate is issued in Alberta, it will need to be ‘resealed’ though the BC court before the BC Land Tile and Survey Authority will take instructions from the executor.
The BC Probate fee is the court’s fee for issuing the Grant of Probate, Administration or Resealing and it is based on the gross value of (a) the real and tangible personal property of the deceased situated in British Columbia, and (b) if the deceased was ordinarily resident in British Columbia immediately before the date of death, the intangible personal property of the deceased, wherever situated, that passes to the personal representative. Use the calculator above to estimate the Probate Fee payable.
In Alberta, the court fees for issuing a Grant are substantially lower than an BC. The court fee for issuing a Grant of Probate or Administration, Resealed Grant where the net value of the property is over $250,000 is $525. This is the maximum court fee, even if the person passed away with property in Alberta worth more than $250,000.
I have worked with Marissa on many files, including my father’s estate as well as a close friend’s estate. On my father’s estate, my brother passed just after and Marissa made sure the courts were informed and protected my brother’s distribution as well as the executors until proper steps were taken. For my friend’s estate, there were many intricate decisions which needed to be made and distributed in accordance with the deceased wishes. Marissa made sure all legal processes and requirements were met before any distributions were completed. She ensures the executors and clients are protected from any possible liability within her control. Marissa is so knowledgeable and helpful; she is easy to approach and provides well thought out responses. Her demeanor is friendly and reassuring. I know if you have the opportunity to meet with Marissa, you will feel comfortable with your decision to work with her.
Marissa was the best! She was easy to get in contact with and she went above and beyond to answer every question that we asked! With a young family moving abroad temporarily, it was imperative that we got good counsel. She was very efficient with her work and I would recommend Marissa to anyone!
Real Estate Law
We’ll review the purchase contract, prepare the legal documentation and advise on any issues related to the transaction to ensure that property ownership is properly transferred to you.
We will review your sale contract, draft the appropriate documentation and communicate with the purchaser’s lawyer to bring the sale of your home to completion in a smooth and efficient manner.
Mortgages and Refinancing a Home
Our team will work with financial institutions so that funding is advanced in a timely way. We‘ll review title to your property, go over the documentation with you, inform you of your obligations, and meet with you to sign and confirm registration.
Real Estate Law FAQs
Property Transfer Tax is paid by the purchaser unless an exemption applies. The BC government has a property transfer tax calculator that can be found here: Estimate your property transfer tax – Province of British Columbia (gov.bc.ca)
The Land Owner Transparency Registry maintains records about individuals who are deemed to have an indirect interest in land. A Transparency Declaration must be submitted to the registry when an application is made to register an interest in land. Further, a Transparency Report must be filed when a corporation, relevant trust or relevant partnership makes an application to register an interest in land.
Get in Touch With Us
If you’re ready to start planning your legacy or need advice on resolving someone else’s estate, we’re ready to help. Get in touch with our team to get help with estate planning, estate administration, and real estate law.