Wills in Alberta

Information about wills, including how to make one and what happens if you die without a will.

Consult a lawyer for legal advice to ensure that your wishes are represented accurately

Overview

A will is a legal document that allows you to:

  • direct how your property will be distributed after your death
  • name your personal representative who will represent your estate after your death and carry out the wishes you have stated in your will
  • name a guardian for any children who are minors at the time of your death

A properly prepared will allows you to direct where your property will go after your death. A will can help relieve stress from your family and loved ones during a time of grief, and can ensure your last wishes are followed.

If you die without a will, the Wills and Succession Act sets out how and to whom property is transferred when a person dies.

Personal representative

The term 'personal representative' is used to describe either an executor or an administrator of the estate of a deceased individual. Generally, a personal representative of a deceased estate is responsible for the administration of the estate, which includes all duties from locating assets, paying debts and funeral costs, to distributing estate property to beneficiaries.

Types of wills

There are different types of wills, each with certain formalities and requirements to make them valid.

A formal will:

  • is in writing, has your signature
  • is signed in the presence of 2 witnesses, who also sign the will in your presence

A holograph will:

  • is prepared entirely in your own handwriting and signed by you

Prepare a will

It’s recommended that anyone interested in making a will consult a lawyer, who can help prepare your will. If you don’t have a lawyer, you can contact the Law Society of Alberta’s Lawyer Referral service program at 1-800-661-1095.

Reviewing your will

A will that is out of date could create problems. Laws change, personal and financial circumstances change, and new financial and estate planning resources may become available. For instance, the wishes written down by a single person could change if they marry and have children. Acquiring or selling property could also change what you want to happen after your death.

Review your will on a regular basis and after major life events (such as marriage, divorce, children, etc.) to make sure it still reflects your wishes.

Changing your will

For help changing your will, it’s recommended that you speak with a lawyer.

If you die without a will

If you die without a will, Part 3 - Distribution of Intestate Estates in the Wills and Succession Act sets out how a deceased person’s estate will be distributed and who will inherit. The Estate Administration Act (0.3 MB) lists the persons who will be given preference to apply for a grant of administration where there is no will. The grant will set out who will be the personal representative.

Personal Directive and Enduring Power of Attorney

In addition to a will, it’s important to think about what you would want to happen if you were no longer able to make personal or financial decisions before you die. A Personal Directive and Enduring Power of Attorney let you choose someone to manage your personal and financial affairs if you are still alive but unable to make decisions (for example, due to an illness or injury).

Personal Directive

A Personal Directive is a legal document that allows you to appoint someone to make decisions for you if, due to illness or injury, you no longer have the capacity to make personal decisions. This is often referred to as no longer having capacity to make decisions.

These decisions include where you will live or the medical treatment you will receive.

If you’re giving the authority to someone else to make decisions for you, you're called the maker. The person you pass the authority to is called the agent.

Enduring Power of Attorney

An Enduring Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows you to appoint someone to make financial and legal decisions on your behalf.

If you’re the one giving the authority to someone else to make financial decisions for you, you’re called the donor. The person you give the authority to is called the attorney.

Common terms

Administrator

A person (called a 'personal representative') appointed by the court to administer the deceased estate (for example, when a person dies without a will or where a will does not name an executor).

Adult interdependent partner

Under the Adult Interdependent Relationships Act, a person is the adult interdependent partner of another person if:

  • the person has lived with the other person in a relationship of interdependence for a continuous period of 3 years or more
  • the person has lived with the other person in a relationship of some permanence if there is a child of the relationship by birth or adoption
  • the person has entered into an adult interdependent partner agreement with the other person:
    • persons who are related to each other by blood or adoption may only become adult interdependent partners by entering into an adult interdependent partner agreement

Beneficiary

A person who receives money or other property from an estate.

Descendant

A person whose descent can be traced to a particular individual. A lineal descendant means a person who is in direct line to an ancestor for all generations (such as a child, grandchild, great-grandchild, etc.).

Executor

A person (called a 'personal representative') appointed by a testator to carry out the directions set out in their will.

Intestate estate

An estate, or any part of an estate, that is not distributed by a will (for example, where there is no will or where the will does not deal with the specific property).

Personal representative

A person who is either an executor or an administrator of the estate of a deceased individual. Generally, a personal representative of a deceased estate is responsible for the administration of the estate, which includes all duties from locating assets, paying debts and funeral costs, to distributing estate property to beneficiaries.

Testator

A testator is an individual who makes a will.