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What is a will?

It's 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 (personal representatives) who will represent your estate after your death and carry out your final decisions.

Your estate is the property you own at the time of your death, including land, possessions, investments and money.

A will 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 will distribute your property and possessions after your death, or who will receive these possessions – your beneficiaries.

Instead, your estate will be distributed according to the Wills and Succession Act.

How do I write one?

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

Adults can complete a formal will by using a lawyer’s services, reputable online will 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.

For legal resources for low-income Albertans, see our resource directory.

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.

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

When should I seek professional help?

In addition to consulting with a lawyer, you may wish to involve an accountant, financial advisor or estate planner, especially if your estate is complex.

A simple rule-of-thumb is if you use professionals now to assist with your income taxes or financial affairs, you’d likely benefit from professional estate planning assistance.

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

A lawyer can prepare the three key planning documents: will, enduring power of attorney and personal directive. Lawyers can also provide advice on 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 can 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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Starting a new job?

Hi. I’m Tyler, and I'm pretty excited about this new job. It’s in the tech industry, and I think this company is going to be great to work with.

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. Where do I start?

My Wishes Alberta Workbook