The Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta (CPLEA) receives many questions on making a Will. Let’s answer a few of them!
At the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta (CPLEA), we receive many questions on making a Will: Where do I start? Can I do it myself? Where can I find the forms? How much will it cost? Where can I go for help?
CPLEA’s resources, including LawNow, are excellent starting points when searching for legal information on Wills and estates. The following information may also be of help in answering some of your questions on this topic.
Where can I find general information on making a Will in Alberta?
In Alberta, the Wills and Succession Act is the legislation that governs Wills. CPLEA has several resources that can help you understand what this law says about making a Will and the role of your personal representative.
- Making a Will in Alberta booklet
The purpose of writing a Will is to pass on your belongings to your loved ones according to your wishes and with as few problems as possible. If you die without a Will, it’s often more costly, complicated and time-consuming to settle your estate. This booklet is for Albertans who are thinking about writing or changing a Will.
- Wills Checklist
A checklist of things to consider when making a Will.
- Being a Personal Representative booklet
A Personal Representative (previously known as an Executor) is the person named in a Will to carry out the directions contained in that Will. The Personal Representative is responsible for settling the deceased individual’s affairs after death. This booklet deals with what a personal representative needs to know before and after the testator has died, including tips for what to do if things go wrong. Printable checklists are also included.
I want to do this myself. Where can I find the forms?
Getting help from a lawyer is best. Lawyers can make sure your Will fits your specific situation.
If you would like to proceed without the help of a lawyer, you can buy forms to fill in yourself. Alberta Registry offices sell Wills kits, though I suggest you phone and confirm they have the kits before going. There are also websites that collect info from you and then produce a document you can print out and sign.
There are a few major cautions when using forms or kits:
- Powers of Attorney, Personal Directives, and Wills are governed by provincial laws. Make sure the materials you are using apply to the province where you live or have property. If not, the document may not be valid.
- Check the date of the material and the date of the latest legislation in your province. Laws change often. It takes time to create these publications so sometimes they may be out of date.
If you want to contact a lawyer for advice but do not know one, consider contacting the Law Society of Alberta – Lawyer Referral Service. When you call or fill out the online form, the service will provide you with the name of three lawyers. Each lawyer will provide a half-hour consultation free of charge (though are not expected to give legal advice during this time). The purpose of the service is to help you find the right lawyer for you.
I want to handwrite my Will. Can I do this?
Handwritten Wills are called holographic Wills. It is important to note that holographic Wills are legal in Alberta but not in all provinces or territories in Canada.
A holographic Will must be in your “handwriting” – written by hand in whatever style. The Testator (person making the Will) must sign it but does not need a witness.
It is important to note that to be valid, the holographic Will must entirely be in your writing. It should not be printed off, half written and half typed, or written by someone else. If a holographic Will must be submitted to court to get a grant of probate, someone must swear an affidavit saying it is your writing.
What happens if I die without a Will?
For Albertans who are 18 and over, making a Will is a big first step towards planning for your future. Now some might say, “why should I make a Will? I only have debts. Do I need a lawyer? How much will that cost?” My personal favourite is “my family can figure it out”.
A past LawNow article answers these questions and more: Have You Heard the One About the Canadian Who Died Without a Will?. CPLEA also has an info sheet about who gets your estate if you die without a Will: Beneficiaries: When Someone Dies Without a Will in Alberta.
When a person dies intestate, or without a Will, the person with priority according to law must apply for a grant of administration to disperse the estate. If your estate is non-contentious – no one is challenging it – the forms are available online. You can also order the forms from the Alberta Queen’s Printer (or call 780-427-4952). The Surrogate Court is the branch of the Court of Queen’s Bench that handles Wills, estate, and probate matters.
Where can I find help?
Help is available to give you more information or legal advice:
Resolution and Court Services Centres (RCAS) is a government office that supports people with finding court forms. They also have information on court procedures, legal service options and assessment services.
Legal clinics across Alberta provide free legal services for people who meet certain income guidelines.
- Edmonton Community Legal Centre’s Wills Roster can connect you with a lawyer who can prepare simple estate planning documents at a reduced rate based on your income.
- Calgary Legal Guidance’s Elder Law Program can help if you have questions or need support with estate planning documents.
- Clinics in Red Deer, Fort McMurray, Medicine Hat, Lloydminster, Grande Prairie and Lethbridge may also be able to help with estate planning documents, though strict financial guidelines often apply.
Lawyer Referral Service (mentioned above) connects you with three lawyers you can consult with to see who might be the best fit for you.
Alberta Legal Coaches and Limited Legal Services maintains a directory of Alberta lawyers who are willing to be legal coaches or provide limited services. The non-profit running the service does not employ or certify any of the listed lawyers. As well, the lawyers in the directory generally do not provide free or discount services.
Check also with the seniors’ organizations in your area. They may be able to connect you with more local supports.
Finally, CPLEA has many resources on planning for the future. These resources cover many topics such as making a Will (including a helpful checklist to focus your thoughts on what your Will should address) and other decision-making tools for when you are still alive but no longer have mental capacity.
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The information in this article was correct at time of publishing. The law may have changed since then. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of LawNow or the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta.
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