When should you review your Will?

A Will should be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that it still expresses your wishes and may require updating if there has been a change in your family situation or in your finances. 

 

Some examples:

  • Your Personal Representative's or guardian's circumstances change;

  • A beneficiary dies;

  • You receive a large sum of money or valuable property;

  • You separate from your spouse, divorce or remarry;

  • You have another child;

  • Your youngest child becomes an adult; or

  • You leave Alberta to live elsewhere.

A Will is a legal document that:

  • Takes effect only after you have died and directs how your property will be distributed amongst your beneficiaries;

  • Appoints a Personal Representative to administer your estate;

  • Appoints a guardian for your minor or dependent children; and

  • Contains instructions on what you want done with your property after you die.

Please remember that a Will only deals with assets and property that you own. It does not deal with assets that have other legal ways of being distributed on death such as:

  • Jointly held property, which passes automatically to the survivor;

  • Life insurance, RRSP's or pension plans for which you have named a beneficiary;

  • Business assets that are dealt with under a shareholders' agreement or a buy-sell agreement;

  • Assets that are dealt with in a written Marriage Contract.

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What happens if you do not have a Will?

The Wills and Succession Act will apply and:  

  • Someone will have to apply to court to be appointed as your Personal Representative;

  • Until a Personal Representative is appointed no one has authority over your affairs;

  • Someone will have to apply to court to be appointed as a guardian for your minor  children;

  • Your estate is divided by the legislation and it is unlikely that this will reflect your wishes;

  • The Public Trustee will hold shares of your minor children and this will be paid to them when they attain the age of 18, whether they are mature or not;

  • Your guardian will have to apply to court for money if this is needed to maintain your children;

  • You do not get a choice on who will act on your behalf.

 

An Enduring Power of Attorney is a legal document that:

  • Takes effect while you are still alive and enables your Attorney to make decisions for you regarding your property and financial affairs;

  • Allows you to name someone you trust as your Attorney;

  • Comes into effect immediately OR upon the happening of the loss of your mental and/or physical capacity, usually being brought into effect by 2 qualified medical practitioners; 

  • Gives your Attorney unrestricted powers to do anything you can do OR restricted powers to do only those things that you specify in the document, eg: your Attorney may only have power to access a certain bank account or may not have the power to sell land or make donations.

What happens if you do not have an Enduring Power of Attorney?

No one can automatically take care of your property and financial affairs. In this situation, someone would have to apply to court to be appointed as your trustee, which is a far more expensive and time consuming than having an Enduring Power of Attorney signed while you are still healthy.

You do not get a choice on who will act on your behalf.

 

A Personal Directive is a legal document that:

  • Takes effect while you are still alive and enables your Agent to make decisions for you regarding your health care and personal matters;

  • Allows you to name someone you trust as your Agent; 

  • Comes into effect when you lack the capacity to make decisions for yourself. You are said to lack capacity when you can no longer understand the information relevant to a personal decision; you do not have the ability to appreciate the consequences of a decision and; a written Declaration of Incapacity is obtained;

  • Includes the appointment of an Agent or Agents and their authority, a statement of your wishes, beliefs and values and instructions on all personal matters that are non-financial, such as health care and accommodation.

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What happens if you do not have a Personal Directive? 

 

No one can automatically make medical and personal care decisions on your behalf.  In this situation, someone would have to apply to court to be appointed as your guardian which is far more expensive and time consuming than having a Personal Directive signed while you are still healthy.

You do not get a choice on who will act on your behalf.

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