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4 Ways to Avoid Paying Probate Tax in BC    

BC Probate Taxes: What to Know

When dealing with the grief of losing a loved one, the subject of probate tax may seem overwhelming. When an executor in British Columbia submits an application to the provincial government for a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration, the executor is required to pay a tax called “probate tax” or “probate fee.” This tax is applied on the total worth of the deceased person’s estate after they have passed away. The taxable estate comprises the decedent’s entire asset portfolio, which includes their personal belongings, as well as their real estate, bank accounts, and investments. In order to arrive at an exact total of the amount owed in probate taxes, it is necessary to compile precise appraisals of the assets in question.

Approximately 1.4% of an estate’s total value is subject to a tax known as the “probate tax” in the province of British Columbia. This tax can eat up a large portion of your fortune. There are good techniques and there are awful strategies for people in British Columbia who are wanting to preserve their assets and avoid paying the probate tax. In this piece, we will discuss four efficient strategies that can help you avoid paying the probate tax in British Columbia and ensure that your hard-earned assets are kept where they rightfully belong.

To pay probate tax in BC, follow these steps:

  1. Collect Documents: Gather all required documents, including the death certificate, the will, and a list of assets and their values.
  2. File an Application: The executor or administrator of the estate must submit an application to the Supreme Court of British Columbia for a Grant of Probate or grant of Administration. This is usually done with the help of probate lawyers.
  3. Evaluate the Estate: Determine the total value of the taxable estate by totaling up all of the assets and ensuring that they are accurately valued.
  4. Determine the Tax: Apply the applicable estate tax rate to the total value of the estate. Before the court grants probate, pay this levy.
  5. Obtain the Grant: After paying the probate tax, the court will grant probate, allowing you to continue with estate administration.

The Power of Alter Ego Trust and Joint Partner Trust

Having an Alter Ego Trust or Joint Partner Trust can be a powerful tool in your arsenal when it comes to avoiding the probate process and probate tax. These trust options are designed to help you safeguard your assets and are offered with independent advice from experienced trust lawyers to ensure that the trust arrangement is not only tax-efficient but also tailored to your specific needs.

Both alter ego trusts and joint partner trusts are categorized as “inter vivos” trusts, meaning that you transfer your assets into the trust during your lifetime. After the trust is set up, you will have assets held within the trust, alongside personal assets still in your name. The assets within the trust will be distributed according to the trust document, while personal assets will pass through your will, joint ownership, or beneficiary designation. The fundamental concept, benefits, and drawbacks are quite similar for both types of trusts. The primary difference is that an alter ego trust is designed for individuals, while a joint partner trust is for married or common-law couples, often referred to as Joint Spousal Trusts (JST).

To qualify for either of these trusts, you typically need to meet the following criteria:

  1. Be 65 years or older
  2. Be entitled to receive all the income from the trust
  3. Be the only person (or, for spouses, people) entitled to receive or have use of the income or capital of the trust
  4. Be a resident of Canada

If avoiding the tax on estates that are subject to probate is the primary goal, it is essential to be aware that these trusts are normally suggested for individuals who have an estate worth of more than around $2 million. This is due to the fact that the probate fee on an estate worth $2 million might amount to almost $28,000. However, avoiding probate taxes isn’t the only persuasive argument in favor of establishing these trusts; there are many other strong reasons to do so.

Setting up an Alter Ego Trust or Joint Partner Trust offers several significant advantages, including:

  1. No probate fee on the assets held within the trust, effectively saving you the 1.4% probate tax on these assets in BC.
  2. Elimination of the probate process for the assets held in trust, which can often be a lengthy and cumbersome process.
  3. Enhanced privacy, as third parties will not have access to information regarding the assets held in the trust, whereas probate filings are public records.
  4. Practical applications in disinheritance situations, although it’s crucial to discuss this with trust lawyers, as it requires careful consideration.
  5. The ability to maintain the Principal Residence Exemption for homes transferred into the trust, offering potential tax benefits.

So let’s look at 4 effective approaches that will help you minimize your inheritance tax burden.

1. Designate Beneficiaries

By naming beneficiaries for your accounts, you can avoid paying the probate tax in British Columbia, which is one of the most straightforward and time-saving ways to avoid the tax. You are able to directly name beneficiaries for a number of different assets, including life insurance policies, Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs), and Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs). If you follow these steps, the assets in question will be distributed to the beneficiaries you have designated without going through the probate process.

This strategy is not only effective in terms of efficiency but also in terms of cost-effectiveness. It paves the way for your loved ones to get their inheritances more quickly and with less headaches from the legal system. It is a fantastic approach to ensure that the people you desire to benefit directly from your assets do so without subjecting them to the financial burden of probate.

2. Joint Ownership with the Right of Survivorship

Holding assets jointly with the right of survivorship is yet another astute approach for avoiding the payment of probate taxes. In most cases, this entails sharing ownership of assets like real estate or bank accounts with a spouse or another member of the family. In the case that one of the owners passes away, the ownership of the property or account will be passed to the owner who is still alive.

You can ensure that the assets do not go through the probate process at all by acting in this manner. Having assets held in joint ownership not only makes it easier to transfer those assets, but it also ensures that they are managed more efficiently during your lifetime.

3. Establish an Alter Ego Trust or Joint Partner Trust

As mentioned above, Alter Ego Trusts and Joint Partner Trusts are legal structures set up by estate planning lawyers that enable you to transfer ownership of your assets into a trust while still retaining control over those assets during your lifetime. When you pass away, the trust turns into an irrevocable legal document, guaranteeing that your assets are distributed to the beneficiaries you have designated without going through the legal process of probate. Crucially, because you don’t personally own those assets at the time of your death, there is no probate tax applied to any of the assets held in these trusts.

This strategy is a fantastic option for individuals who want to maintain a high level of control over their assets during their lifetime, but at the same time, they want to ensure that their heirs do not have to go through the hassle and expense of probate once they are gone. It offers a methodical approach to the management of assets and helps to simplify the distribution procedure.

4. Consider Gift-Giving

Giving away your assets during your lifetime in the form of gifts is another option to reduce the amount of probate tax you will owe after your death. This will have the effect of reducing the size of your estate, which will, in turn, reduce the amount of the probate tax that must be paid. Having said that, it is of the utmost importance to be aware of the potential tax implications and limitations that must be considered.

It is highly recommended that you seek the advice of a tax professional or estate planning lawyer who is able to provide direction that is customized to your specific set of circumstances in order to successfully navigate this method.

Understand the Ongoing Obligations

Properly managing your Alter Ego Trust or Joint Partner Trust is vital to avoid negative tax consequences in the year of your passing. Trust lawyers can provide valuable advice on how to navigate this aspect of trust management. It’s important to recognize that setting up these trusts comes with certain ongoing obligations, such as filing annual tax returns for the trust. These responsibilities should be factored into your decision-making process to ensure they align with your financial goals.


The British Columbia probate tax can be a significant financial burden, but there are effective ways to alleviate this burden. By weighing the advantages and disadvantages of Alter Ego Trusts and Joint Partner Trusts, seeking advice from seasoned professionals, assessing the value of your estate, understanding your ongoing responsibilities, and ensuring competent management of trusts, you can proactively protect your assets and reduce your probate tax liability. If you are uncertain about the best course of action for your particular circumstances, estate planning lawyers are available to provide the advice and insight you need to make an informed decision. Estate lawyers can also help you document your estate plan to lessen the chances of disputes occuring after death.

By naming beneficiaries, holding assets jointly, establishing an Alter Ego Trust or Joint Partner Trust, and contemplating gift-giving, with the help of an estate lawyer you can navigate the complexities of the probate tax and ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes.

Remember that in matters pertaining to your financial future, meticulous planning and expert advice can have a significant impact on the preservation of your hard-earned assets and the attainment of your estate planning goals.