The Supreme Court of British Columbia has recently heard and decided upon an estate dispute (Souraya v. Kinch), which concerned the estate of Billy Jaswant Singh Rai, who was involved in criminal gang activities for many years. Billy was gunned down on an rural road in Abbotsford in 2009.

Billy did not have a valid will and following on from his death, Julie Ann Kinch was granted letters of administration in 2010.  Julie obtained the letters of administration on the basis that she was Billy’s common law spouse at the time of his death.  However,  Billy’s sister Linda, with the consent of his mother, brought this action before the court contesting the grant made to Julie on the basis that she was not a common law spouse as defined in the Estate Administration Act (the “Act”).

The court reviewed evidence from several witnesses to determine if Julie and Billy’s relationship met the criteria for a common law relationship.  In doing so the court assessed various factors such as where the parties lived (Shelter), their sexual and personal behaviour, their contribution to domestic chores (Services),  how they defined their relationship amongst friends and family (social and societal), financial and inter-relationship support and their views on children.

During the analysis the court determined that Julie and Billy’s relationship did not meet the standard of a common law relationship.  Billy maintained his own residence, although he also stayed with Julie.  He did not include her in events with his family and there were areas of his personal life where she was not included or involved in.  They broke up on three occasions and he did not publicly commit to her and referred to her as his girlfriend.

On the basis that Julie was not Billy’s Common Law spouse, the court revoked the letters of administration granted to Julie and instead grant them to Linda.  This decision means that Julie will not be eligible to share in the proceeds of Billy’s estate in accordance with the intestacy rules in the Act.  The proceeds of Billy’s estate will now go to his mother.

However, this case is interesting as no evidence was provided to the court regarding the value of Billy’s estate.  At the time of his death Billy owned and operated a gym in Abbotsford, which he had purchased with assistance from various family members and it was closed after he died.

Billy was 36 at the time of his death and although he had been involved in some risky behaviour (affidavits filed in this case provided evidence that he had flown back and forth across the US/Canada border in a helicopter transporting drugs) he likely hadn’t considered the consequences of dying intestate.

If he had turned his mind to preparing a will during his lifetime, he would have saved a public and open dispute between his family and his girlfriend and the assets he held at the time of his death would have been distributed in accordance with his wishes rather than dictated by statute.