Probate Advice & Executor Guidance

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Probate Lawyers in Calgary

Last Will and Testament concept image complete with spectacles and pen.When a loved one passes away, it is always a stressful time.

Making funeral arrangements and administering the will can be complex, increasing the burden on family members.

The legal processes that need to be navigated are considerably easier with the help of experienced lawyers.

Probate lawyers at Spectrum Family Law in Calgary can ensure that you are able to focus on the grieving process while we look after the legal necessities.

Learn More>> Our Calgary Estate Administration Services

What is a probate lawyer?

Probate is the process by which the Alberta courts confirm the validity of a will and the appointment of an executor to deal with the assets of a deceased person’s estate.

“Assets” include anything possessed by the deceased with a financial value, including bank accounts, investments, real estate, and so on, which constitute the “estate”.

A probate lawyer assists the executor of the will with the application for Grant of Probate to the courts and ensures that the process of executing the will (identifying and distributing assets) runs according to state law.

Passing away without a will means that an application must be made for administration rather than probate. 

The court will appoint an administrator for the estate so that third parties like financial institutions can disburse the estate assets according to the correct legal process. 

What’s an executor?

An executor is a personal representative of the deceased, appointed in a will to carry out the instructions it contains and to look after the distribution of assets.

It is a legal requirement to name an executor in your will. This is usually a family member, close friend, a lawyer, or someone else whom you trust.

Can I probate a will without a lawyer?

If you are named as the executor of a will, you may need to make an application for probate to the Alberta courts.

Probating an estate can be time-consuming and stressful. This is especially the case if the deceased has not followed the correct legal process when writing the will, potentially leading to long delays and complications.

The executor has many duties to attend to and can be held personally liable for losses to beneficiaries if mistakes are made.

For these reasons, most individuals find it easier with the assistance of professional legal advice though technically there is no requirement to hire a lawyer.

Do I need to probate a will in Calgary?

Whether you need to apply for probate in Calgary depends on the nature of the assets in the deceased person’s estate.

Generally, if bank accounts exceed a certain balance, probate will be required. If there is a property in the estate without a joint owner, probate will be required to sell the property. 

Because of the potential for fraudulent transactions in these situations, the Alberta courts, local financial institutions, and land titles offices take a cautious approach before assets can be transferred or sold.

In the following circumstances, you will usually need to probate a will in Alberta:

  • No surviving spouse is named as a joint tenant of the property (it is in the name of the deceased only)
  • The amount of money in bank accounts and investments is substantial
  • Family members or other parties may challenge the validity of the will
  • Registered pension plans (RPPs) are involved, with no named beneficiary
  • There are unpaid debts from the deceased

However, small estates with few assets or where all assets are jointly owned (like with the surviving spouse in a marriage) may not require probate.

Remember, if there is no will, you may have to apply for an administrator to be appointed.

If you are not sure about this, speak to the probate lawyers at Spectrum Family Law for more clarity.

What assets are subject to probate in Alberta?

The following assets may be subject to probate in Alberta:

  • Bank accounts with balances over a certain amount
  • Registered investments without a named beneficiary
  • Life insurance policies without a named beneficiary
  • Properties not directly passed on to a spouse or common-law partner through joint ownership
  • Any other asset where the financial institution holding it is not prepared to pay out the funds without probate

What documents do I need to probate a will?

In order to obtain a Grant of Probate, you will need to submit the following documents to the court:

  • The will
  • Executor and probate lawyer contact information
  • Executor’s affidavit 
  • Information about the deceased and the deceased’s family
  • Information about the detail of the last will
  • Information about the executor
  • Information about the beneficiaries
  • A complete inventory of the estate’s assets and liabilities
  • Affidavits provided by the witnesses to the will
  • Notice to beneficiaries
  • Notice to beneficiaries regarding specific gifts

What happens if the executor doesn’t go through probate?

Without probate, the banks, Alberta Land Titles offices, and other institutions holding assets in the name of the deceased may not transfer these assets to the intended beneficiaries.

In the vast majority of cases, such institutions require documentation from the court to prove that the will is validated, that there will be no subsequent claims on assets, and to protect themselves from lawsuits.

How long does probate take in Alberta? 

The probate process in Alberta must not start until at least seven days after a person’s death.

If you hire a probate lawyer to handle the application process, the amount of time it takes to complete will depend upon:

  • The complexity of the estate
  • How easy it is to determine the value of assets and identify the intended beneficiaries

This first part of the process may take around 10-15 days to complete. The application must be served to the beneficiaries and filed at the Alberta Court of Queens Bench. 

A Grant of Probate is usually issued by the court to the executor around 4-6 weeks after receipt.

Do you need help with probate?

As you have seen, probate can be a complex and time-consuming process. Call the probate lawyers at Spectrum Family Law for guidance, starting with a free consultation.

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