Simply stated, a Will is a written statement, made by an individual, which directs the distribution of their property when they die.
A Will is written during the lifetime of the person making the Will (the “Testator”) and provides instructions to an appointed person, or persons (the Personal Representative), for distribution of the Testator’s assets after their death. Assets can be left to family members, friends, charities, or many other entities, with some restrictions under the law as to whom should be included.
If there is no Will, the distribution of the deceased’s Estate is governed by the Wills and Succession Act of Alberta. This Act determines how the Estate of the deceased will be distributed.The immediate family of the deceased, including the spouse, or “spousal equivalent,” of the deceased, will inherit the Estate under this Act, with no discretion or allowances made for any non-family members, friends or any charitable societies.
Wills are not permanent documents; they can be changed or rewritten at any time before death, provided that the Testator is mentally capable of making such changes. Changes can be minor in nature, such as changing a paragraph, and can be accomplished by signing a document known as a “Codicil” to the Will. Significant changes to numerous clauses may require that the existing Will be revoked, and a new Will completed in its place.
Wills should be changed any time a person experiences a significant life event, such as marriage, separation or divorce, or the birth of a child. A Will should also be reviewed every five years or so, to ensure that the instructions in the Will still represent the Testator’s wishes and their family situation. Estate planning, when confronted with complex issues such as blended families, for instance, raises many questions which should be addressed by obtaining legal advice.
Our office has extensive experience drafting Wills for our clients and we, with our combined expertise, provide clear and concise advice for a wide range of Estate planning issues.