In a recent British Columbia decision, the court ruled that a deceased’s suicide note constituted a valid will.
Deceased Leaves Suicide Note
The deceased died by suicide on September 18, 2014. One day prior to her death, she left a handwritten note. The note was found in her car by the police following her death and appeared to be a suicide note.
The deceased’s common law spouse applied to court for an order that the handwritten note was a record that represented the deceased’s testamentary intentions and was fully effective as her will.
No other testamentary document was found for the deceased.
Contents of Handwritten Note
The handwritten note left by the deceased explained that she could no longer deal with her depression and anxiety.
It then stated: “This is my will please respect my wishes”.
The note stated that she was leaving her apartment and certain bank accounts to her common law spouse and that she was leaving her RRSP account to her brother.
The note was dated at the top of the document and signed at the bottom. It also set out the deceased’s social insurance number and bank account details.
Courts Finds Handwritten Note to be Valid Will
The court began by setting out the formal requirements for a valid will under British Columbia’s Wills, Estates and Succession Act (“WESA”). The court explained that to make a finding of a valid will, it must be satisfied on a balance of probabilities, that the document is authentic and that the document records the deceased’s deliberate or fixed and final expression of intention as to disposal of his or her property on death.
The court first ruled that the note did not meet the requirements for formal validity of a will under s. 37 of the WESA, in particular because there had been no witnesses to its signing.
However, the court did find that the note was a record within the meaning of s. 58(1) of the WESA and was authentic. Section 58 of the WESA is a curative provision and provides the court with discretion to order that a record that does not conform with s. 37 is fully effective as a will.
Finally, after weighing all the relevant factors, including the fact that the note was signed, dated, stated “please respect my wishes” and referred to itself as a “will”, the court found that the note represented the fixed and final testamentary intentions of the deceased as to the disposal of her property on death.
As a result, the court ruled that the note was fully effective as the will of the deceased.
DBH Law recognizes that there continues to be a concern in Alberta about the spread of COVID-19. We have implemented several measures to reduce the risk and impact to our employees, clients and the community-at-large.
Please be aware that we are prepared to initiate business continuity protocol for remote work and communications. It is our priority to ensure business continuity for our clients while ensuring the safety of our people. We recognize that the outbreak of COVID-19 is an unprecedented situation globally and we wish to assure you DBH Law is equipped and prepared to maintain and continue business services to our clients during this pandemic.
The highly-experienced and strategic Calgary estate lawyers at DBH Law can help you draft or update your will to reflect the needs of your family and your estate, no matter its size or complexity. Our responsive and concise approach to our work makes the process of will and estate planning easy for our clients.
We take pride in the relationships we have built with our clients, and the opportunities we have to represent their legal needs as they grow and evolve. We understand your need to provide for your family and loved ones while also minimizing the taxation and chances of litigation your estate may face. We can be reached by phone at 403.252.9937 or online and look forward to the chance to learn about what is important to you, and how we can help you achieve that.