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What is a will?

A will is a document that outlines how you would like your property and possessions distributed after your death.

It allows you to name the person or persons who will represent your estate after your death and carry out your final wishes.

It also allows you to name a guardian for any children who are minors at the time of your death.

Why is it important?

In Alberta, if you do not have a will, you cannot choose who your beneficiaries will be and who will administer your estate when you die.

If you do not have a will, your estate will be distributed according to the Wills and Succession Act.

All adults should have an up-to-date will, especially if they have children. Significant events, like marriage or the birth of a child, will often trigger thinking about preparing a will.

How do I write one?

There are two types of wills. A formal will is a written document, signed and dated by and in the presence of two witnesses. To be a witness, you cannot benefit from the will you are signing. A holograph will is prepared and signed in your own handwriting. Both are legal documents.

Adults can complete a formal will by using a lawyer’s services or a legal will preparation kit. Will kits are specific to the province in which you reside and may become invalid if you move provinces. 

Keep your original will in a safe place and make sure family members know where it is.

It is important to review your will every two years or whenever your personal circumstances change (e.g., marriage, the birth of a child, divorce).

It is recommended that anyone interested in making or changing a will consult a lawyer.  If you do not have a lawyer, you can contact the Law Society of Alberta’s Lawyer Referral Service.

When should I seek professional help?

If your estate is complex, you may wish to speak to a lawyer, accountant, financial advisor or estate planner.

Do you need professional assistance with your estate planning? One simple rule-of-thumb is that if you use professionals now to assist with your income taxes or financial affairs, then you likely would benefit from professional estate planning assistance.

An estate planner or financial advisor can help you incorporate estate planning into your retirement or financial plan.

Typically, an estate planner does not prepare wills or other formal documents; however, a good estate planner will work closely with an accountant and a lawyer to create a team of estate professionals.

lawyer can prepare the three key planning documents: the will, enduring power of attorney and personal directive. Lawyers can also provide information and advice about trusts and estate planning.

An accountant can help you prepare tax plans and prepare tax returns after your death.

If you do not already have a lawyer but wish to consult with one, you may wish to use the Law Society of Alberta's Lawyer Referral Service.

If you do not already have an accountant but wish to consult with one, you may wish to use the Chartered Professional Accounting Alberta’s Find a CPA Firm Service.

For further information, visit the wills section of our resource directory.

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Now that I have a salary, benefits and even the start of a pension plan, it makes sense to think about my future health care planning.

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