A will is one of the most important legal documents you can have, yet many Canadians have yet to check this off their to-do list.
According to a study commissioned by Willful, over 70% of Albertans don’t have an up-to-date will.
In this article, we’ll cover the basics of wills in Alberta and walk you through the process of writing your own!
What Is A Last Will and Testament in Alberta?
Let’s start at the beginning — what exactly is a will?
Your last will and testament (often simply referred to as a will) is a legal document that communicates your wishes in the event of your death. This includes everything from how to distribute your assets to beneficiaries, such as property, money, and other personal items, to naming a guardian for any minor children. You can also outline any funeral and burial wishes and make charitable donations.
Your will is also where you’ll name an executor who will be responsible for wrapping up your estate. In Alberta, an executor may also be referred to as a personal representative.
Your will is a roadmap for your loved-ones and family - it helps guide them through your wishes after you’re no longer around.
What Makes A Will Legal In Alberta?
Making a will is fairly straightforward, but there are a few requirements you need to meet for your will to be legal in Alberta.
The general requirements for a legal will in Alberta include:
You must be of sound mind and over the age of majority (18).
You, the testator or will-maker must have made the will yourself. (No one else can do this on your behalf.)
You must sign the document in the presence of two valid witnesses.
Your witnesses must also sign the last page of your will after you.
Your will must be signed in wet ink and stored as a physical copy
The only exception to some of these rules are holographic wills.
Despite what many people believe, you do NOT need to visit a lawyer or notary to make a legal will in Alberta. There are many ways to make a legally binding will, which we’ll cover below.
How To Make A Will In Alberta
40% of Alberta residents stated that they don’t have a will due to procrastination. Fortunately, it’s actually easy to make a legal will in Alberta.
Despite what many people believe, you do not need to spend a lot of money and make a trip to a lawyer to make your will. There are several ways you can make a legally binding will, depending on your life situation. Here are some of the most common ways to make a will in Alberta:
Online Wills In Alberta
Online wills, like Willful, are a great option for those who are looking for personalized documents, without the cost and hassle of visiting a lawyer. Online wills are considered formal wills in Albert and are well suited to most people, unless you have a complex estate.
Aside from wills, many online will platforms also provide options for creating power of attorney documents and personal directives. A personal directive is a legal document that appoints someone to make decisions related to your personal care, in the event you cannot communicate yourself due to injury or illness that hinders your mental capacity.
Alberta does not have living wills, which will typically include wishes for medical treatment or end-of-life. Instead, that information is included in the personal directive.
Help your family avoid:
Alberta Will Kits
In Alberta, will kits are what most people call the fill-in-the-blank templates. They are typically one-size-fits-all, and usually only a good fit for those with extremely simple estates and no additional wishes. You can often find these will kits at your local post office or office supply store. The good news is, they’re relatively low cost!
That being said, if you have a complex estate or want more customization, you may want to consider visiting a lawyer or using an online will platform.
Will kits often seem affordable, but since there are legal requirements for updating your will, you’ll likely need to purchase a new one every time you want to make a change. It’s recommended that you review your will at least once every 6-12 months. Over time, the costs for making changes to your will can add up!
Lawyer-Drafted Wills In Alberta
While there is no requirement to make a will with a lawyer in Alberta, there are some situations where you may benefit from legal advice. You may want to consider visiting a lawyer if you have custom or complex clauses you’d like to include in your will.
There are no two ways about it, a will drafted by a lawyer is likely to be the most comprehensive. However, it’s one of the most expensive options and most Canadians have simple estates that don’t require legal advice. Depending on the lawyer you choose and the amount of time required to create your document, the costs can vary.
Holographic Wills in Alberta
Holographic wills are handwritten wills created without the use of any mechanical device (such as computers, typewriters, etc.) In Alberta, holographic wills must be in the testator's own writing, must be signed by the testator, and do not require witnesses.
While holographic wills are free and cost-effective, they're typically not a great option unless you have a legal background. We can often contradict ourselves or leave out important information when trying to draft a will ourselves! They are also not ideal if you need to make updates.
Are Will Kits And Online Wills Legal In Alberta?
Yes, 100% - will kits and online wills are legal in Alberta, as long as you’ve met the requirements for a legal will! It’s important to know that what makes your will legal is not how you made it, but that you’ve met the signing and witnessing requirements for Alberta.
Every Willful document comes with fully detailed instructions, specific to Alberta to help you through the process - including a list of who can and cannot be a witness!
As new parents, we had been needing to write our wills and this tool allowed us to do just that, effortlessly, from the comfort of our own home.
What Happens When You Die Without A Will In Alberta?
Intestacy is the fancy word for dying without a will in Alberta. If you die intestate, your assets will be distributed based on the laws in Alberta. The courts will also appoint an executor and guardian for any minor children on your behalf.
While this might seem simple, the choices the court makes are not often what you would have wanted.
Beyond financial repercussions, passing away without a will can create additional burden and stress for your family. Without your will, it leaves your family guessing what your final wishes would have been. This can be costly and also time consuming, causing delays in the process.
The Wills and Succession Act determines what happens with the deceased person's estate if they don’t have a valid will. If you die without a will in Alberta, your assets are typically distributed as follows:
- If you have a spouse but no children, your spouse gets 100% of your estate.
- If you have a spouse and child/children and those children also belong to your spouse, 100% of your estate goes to your spouse.
- If you have a spouse and child/children and they do not belong to your spouse, your spouse receives 50% of your estate and the rest is divided among your children.
- If you don’t have a spouse but have children, your estate is divided equally among your children.
- If you don’t have a spouse or children, your estate is divided equally between your parents. If only one is alive, they get your entire estate.
- If you don’t have surviving parents, your siblings will get your estate. If they’re not surviving either, their children (your nieces and nephews) get their share.
It’s important to remember that common law spouses and other loved ones are not always accounted for in the provincial rules. They may be left vulnerable if you die without a will, making it even more important to one if you have wishes that include other individuals.
Other Common Questions About Wills In Alberta
How Much Does It Cost To Make A Will In Alberta?
The cost to make a will depends on the complexity of your estate! However, most Canadians have simple estates and wishes, and can make their will for as low as $99 with Willful.
If you have a complex estate or need legal advice, visiting a lawyer to make a will can range from $400 to $1000 depending on your life situation. You will likely also need to factor additional costs every time you make an update to your will.
Wondering which Willful plan is right for you? Take our quiz to find out.
Can I Make My Own Will in Alberta?
Handwritten wills, also known as holographic wills, are legal in Alberta. A holographic will must be handwritten and signed by you (the testator). Holographic wills in Alberta do not require any witnesses.
Do You Need A Lawyer To Make A Will In Alberta?
You are not required to use a lawyer to make a will in Alberta. However, there may be some situations where you may benefit from legal advice such as if you have a complex estate or you’d like to add custom clauses into your will.
Does A Will Need To Be Notarized In Alberta?
No, a will does not need to be notarized in Alberta.
That being said, if your estate needs to go through probate, you will need an affidavit of execution. An affidavit of execution helps confirm the validity of a will and is required in some circumstances. It is NOT required for your will to be legal. It can be completed at the time you execute your will, at a later date, or even after you pass away.
Many Canadians will choose to wait to complete this process if they expect they may need to make updates to their will, since it needs to be completed each time your will is updated.
Read More: Does my will need to be notarized?
When Is Probate Required In Alberta?
Not all wills and estates in Alberta need to go through probate – the process of the courts formally accepting your will. Some financial institutions may require a grant of probate before releasing assets, and may be required if there is real estate involved.
Alberta is actually the only province in Canada with a maximum on probate fees. The most you will pay for probate is $400 if the estate is over $250,000
Create Your Online Will In Alberta Today
A will is one of the most crucial parts of your estate planning. If you’re ready to protect your family’s future by creating a will, Willful can help. We’ve partnered with top estate lawyers in Alberta so you can feel confident knowing your will reflects your specific wishes.
The benefits of using an online platform like Willful include:
- Create a customized, fully legal will that is based on your unique life situation
- Make your will in less than 20 minutes, from the comfort of your home.
- Logic-based platform that guides you every step of the way
- Expert support by phone, email, or chat
- Easy updates to your will as your life changes
- No surprise fees!
Appendix: Common Estate Planning Terms
Affidavit of Execution: A legal document sworn by one of the witnesses of a will or codicil verifying that they and the other witness (if two witnesses are required) were present for the signing of the document in the Testator’s presence.
Beneficiary: An individual whom you assign within your will to receive your property or assets after you pass away.
Executor: A trusted individual appointed in your will who helps execute the wishes outlined in your will, and can act on behalf of your business and financial interests when you die. This person may also be your estate trustee with a will. In Alberta, this person may also be referred to as a personal representative.
Testator: The individual for whom the will is being prepared.
See more commonly used terminology for wills and estate planning in our Glossary.