Testamentary Automony in Action


Much of the estate litigation we see involves disappointed beneficiaries who expected to receive a larger portion of the deceased’s estate.  However, Ray Falk formerly of Illinois, named two actors he did not know as the major beneficiaries of his estate worth up to $1 million.

The starting point when making a Will in British Columbia is that the testator has testamentary autonomy – the right to leave your assets to whomever you wish.  However, testamentary autonomy is not absolute.  It is subject to various exceptions, including having the requisite capacity to make a Will, to being free from undue influence of others, and to the Wills Variation Act, which requires that adequate provision be made to the testator’s spouse and children.

In the case of Mr. Falk, there does not appear to be any litigation challenging his unusual choice of beneficiaries.  This may be as a result of his lack of dependants or close relatives, and because he had his Will prepared by a lawyer.  However, Mr. Falk’s seemingly unfettered testamentary autonomy is not common.  If you are preparing a Will, be aware that there are certain restrictions on your ability to leave your assets to whomever you please, and seek experienced legal advice to assist you.