Will & Trust Lawyers in Calgary

Experienced lawyers facilitating wills and trusts for clients in Calgary, Alberta

Table of Contents

  1. Calgary wills & estates resources
  2. The benefits of having a will
  3. When should I draft my Will?
  4. Will Planning Frequently Asked Questions
  5. Contact a Calgary Will Lawyer

Most people are familiar with the concept of having a will.

However, many people also underestimate the importance of having an enforceable will drafted by an experienced will lawyer that effectively achieves their goals for after they pass away.

Wills & Estate Dispute Lawyers in CalgaryWhen someone dies without a valid will, it can cause many complications and result in many costs for their family that they likely never expected. It is always wise to discuss your options for creating a will with a Calgary will lawyer as soon as possible.

At Spectrum Family Law, we work to protect families – both before and after you pass away. We want to ensure that our clients have wills in place that are specifically tailored to their family situations and the nature of their estates.

Contact our office today to learn more about your options for creating a will.

Calgary Wills & Estates Resources

Learn More >> How to contest a will in Alberta
Learn More >> Wills & Estate Planning Guide for Alberta

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The Benefits of Having a Will

Calgary Will LawyersHaving a will can be beneficial for many reasons, and the following are only some reasons why you should seriously consider drafting a will. 

Reducing Time and Costs – When you pass away without a will, there are no clear instructions regarding who should be responsible for your estate administration or how your estate should be distributed. Instead, your family will need to undergo extra steps during the probate process so the Court can designate someone who is in charge, as well as heirs and distribution orders. This can result in delays and extra costs. 

Accessing Information – When someone does not have a will, chances are that banks and other financial institutions will not easily release information regarding sensitive accounts. A will can help prove that a designated individual has the authority to access accounts to proceed with the many tasks necessary after a death.

Providing Clear Guidance – Without the clear instructions of a will, there can be much confusion among family members regarding an estate. For example, if the deceased person owned property, do you sell the property to a third party? Does a family member take it over? Do you pay off the mortgage with insurance benefits? This is only one of many sources of confusion without the guidance of a will.

Controlling the fair distribution of assets – When someone does not have a will, the law will dictate how the court distributes the estate. The distribution is determined by Alberta intestacy laws, which will leave a certain amount to a spouse and children, or other heirs if the deceased did not have a spouse or children. Intestate laws often provide for unfair distribution, especially if you have a blended family. It is better to control the distribution of your estate to ensure it is fair to all of your loved ones.

Recommending a Guardian – If your death leaves your minor children without a parent, you can use your will to name who you want to step in as their legal guardian. While the Court does not always have to designate your chosen guardian, your opinion can have significant weight in the matter. 

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When should I draft my Will?

It is a common misconception that wills are only for older adults or people with substantial wealth. In reality, anyone over the age of majority (18 years old in Alberta) can benefit from having a will. There are many circumstances in which you should certainly have a will, including:

  • You own any property
  • You have accounts without named beneficiaries
  • You get married or remarried
  • You have children
  • You experience a windfall
  • You get divorced
  • You suffer an illness or injury

The truth is that serious illnesses and injuries can happen at any age, and you want the probate process to be as easy on your family as possible. You can achieve this by drafting a will.

In addition, if you do not have a will drafted by a legal professional, it is likely you do not have other important estate planning documents in place either. There are many documents in a comprehensive estate plan that can protect your family and your estate after you pass away. An estate plan can also designate individuals to handle your affairs and ensure your well-being should you become incapacitated by an illness or injury prior to your death.

While there is always the option to create your own will, this can often lead to challenges of the validity of the will during probate. Our will lawyers can ensure that your will is enforceable, as well as discuss all of your other estate planning options with you.

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Will Planning Frequently Asked Questions

Most people know what a will is but writing one that is legally enforceable in Alberta is another matter.

The FAQs below should clear up most of your questions about wills and will planning…

Most people should consider the following estate planning documents:

  • Will: This document describes how to distribute your estate, make arrangements for dependent children, and name a personal representative to administer your estate after you die.
  • Health care directive (see below): Sometimes called a “living will”, this document appoints someone to make health care and personal care decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so – and also outline medical treatment preferences.
  • Power of Attorney (see below): This document grants authority for making financial decisions to a trusted person should you lose the capacity to make decisions yourself.

A will is necessary for most people because it allows you to decide the following:

  • Who will get your assets after you die?
  • How will your property be divided among beneficiaries?
  • Who will administer your estate?
  • Who will be the guardian for your minor children?
  • Who will get specific items of property?

Dying without a will (“intestate”) means that all such decisions will be taken out of your hands. The court will appoint an administrator according to Alberta’s statutory rules for intestate succession, which may not reflect your wishes.

In Alberta, anyone of sound mind and at least 18 years old can make a will. If you are in the military, married or “legally emancipated”, you may be able to make a will if you are under the age of 18.

Yes, providing you are of sound mind, you can change a will at any time. However, changes will need to follow the legal requirements of making a will e.g., two witnesses must be present.

A will can be amended with the use of codicils or completely rewritten in the case of major changes – it’s best to check with an estate lawyer first.

It’s a good idea to review your will every few years to see if changes are required – and is especially necessary if you get married or divorced, the nominated personal representative dies, you have a new addition to the family, or you change your mind about beneficiaries.

Appointing a power of attorney enables you to choose a trusted agent to look after your property and make financial decisions on your behalf while you are alive.

This responsibility automatically ends upon your death. Your will then specifies how your assets will be distributed.

Your will distributes your assets after your death. It has no power over anything until you die.

A health care directive is active while you are still alive and has no power after you die. It allows you to specify your health care and personal living preferences if you cannot communicate them in the future.

Usually, a health care directive should be accompanied by a financial power of attorney so that financial matters are also addressed if you lose mental capacity in the future.

Your personal representative is responsible for administering your estate according to your wishes, identifying and transferring assets to beneficiaries, paying debts, and communicating with the various parties involved.

It can be a time-consuming and complex task that should only be entrusted to someone with the capability to carry out your wishes. Many people select a close adult family member to do this – often a beneficiary of the will.

You can make a joint (or “mutual”) will, covering you and your husband or wife. This will leave everything to the surviving spouse when one of you dies and state what happens to property after you both die.

The main downside of such wills is that if the life circumstances of the surviving spouse change (e.g., they remarry), the will cannot be changed.

“Mirror wills” allow two people (often a husband and wife) to create identical wills that leave all property to each other in the event of death.

Such wills often have a clause saying that if the husband and wife die at the same time or within 30 days of each other, everything is left to their children or another named beneficiary.

It’s important to bear the following in mind:

  • Jointly owned property (e.g., a home, bank account, etc.) is automatically left to the surviving spouse if the other joint owner dies
  • You can only include what you own in your will – not what your spouse owns

In Alberta, if you get married, your will needs to acknowledge and reflect that fact – though a previous will is not automatically revoked by the marriage.

There should be an “Additional Provisions” section if you want to make a will in contemplation of an upcoming marriage.

In Alberta, legislation passed in 2012 stated that upon divorce, the appointment of a former spouse as a personal representative or trustee and/or any gifts to them are revoked. However, the will itself is not revoked as in some jurisdictions in Canada.

Bear in mind that while “gifts” in a will are revoked, the designation of beneficiaries in third-party contracts such as life insurance, pension plans, etc., are not automatically revoked.

A common provision in a will is to leave property to “all my children”.

However, stepchildren are not considered natural heirs unless you have legally adopted them, so you must name them as beneficiaries in your will if you want to leave property to them.

You must list ALL children in your will or it can create problems, such as leading to a claim against the will by any child not specifically named.

To disinherit a child and prevent will disputes, the child should be named and specifically disinherited in the will.

You generally cannot give away the following property in a will:

  • Pension plans
  • Retirement plans
  • RRSP plan assets
  • Life insurance
  • Annuities
  • Property held in a trust

Most of these assets have named beneficiaries, which apply outside of the provisions of a will. However, it is possible to name your estate as the beneficiary in some cases.

Any designations made in your will do not override the designations of beneficiaries you have made separately in your life insurance policy.

If you do try to designate a different beneficiary in your will to the one designated previously in the policy, it will probably lead to legal action.

Sometimes, however, people designate their estate as the beneficiary in their life insurance policies. The proceeds then form a part of the estate and can be distributed according to the wishes stated in your will.

If you have already named a beneficiary for your RRSPs/RRIFs, your will cannot change that designation.

Contact a Calgary Will Lawyer Now 

Spectrum Family Law handles wills and other estate planning needs for people of all ages and in all types of situations in Calgary. Call 403-452-0043 or contact us online to schedule an appointment and discuss what type of estate plan is right for you.

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