What should I consider when making a will?
Generally, you should think about your assets, your debts, and who you want to benefit from your estate after you die. If you are married,
you should think about what would happen if both you and your spouse were to die together. If you have a family, you should think about
what would happen if your entire family was to die at the same time. If you have minor children, you should think about who will act as
If you have a spouse or minor children, you need to make “adequate” provision for them in your will. What is adequate depends on
individual circumstances. Unless you make adequate provision for your spouse or minor children, the Court may make an award to them
out of your Estate.
Think about your assets.
You might have more than you think. In addition to your personal belongings, bank accounts, and investments, think of what else you may
have. Are you eligible for any life insurance benefits through your employer? Have you paid into a pension plan through an employer?
Does your credit card provide benefits in the case of death?
Think about your debts.
Do you have a mortgage? Credit cards? A line of credit? A car loan? Income taxes?
Do you own your own business? Do you own any lands other than your home? Do you own any investments? All of these have the
potential to trigger significant income taxes, which in most instances, will be payable out of your estate. Talk to your lawyer about taxes
that become payable on death.
Distribution Now or Distribution Later?
If you are married or if you have adult children, you will probably want your estate distributed immediately after your death. But if you
have minor children named in your will, you may want to hold off on distribution for a while, at least until they have matured a little.
Maybe they should get their share when they turn twenty-four. Or thirty. Or maybe you want them to get some of their entitlement when
they are twenty-one and the rest later.
Special Gifts to Special People and Charities?
Are there special people in your life you want to thank with a gift in your will? What about a gift to a favorite charity? Many people
choose to make a charitable gift through their will. Doing so can attract tax benefits. Discuss these with your lawyer.
Who will be the Guardian of your children?
If you’ve got minor children, this is probably the most important decision you’ll make. Who do you want to provide care for your children
if something were to happen to you and your spouse? Or, if you and your child’s other parent are no longer together, would you want that
other parent to have guardianship? You should talk to your proposed guardian before appointing them.
Who will be your executor?
Being an executor for someone is a lot of work and it takes some special skills. Not everyone is cut out to be an executor. Your executor
should be a person who is organized and is good at dealing with bureaucratic institutions. Your executor will have to deal with the
Canada Revenue Agency, your bank, your investment advisors, your pension administrator, and your life insurance company. Your
executor will probably be getting help from a lawyer and an accountant. Your executor should be someone who feels comfortable in these
situations. Your executor should be someone who is good at keeping records as they will have to account to your beneficiaries for all they
have done with the assets of your estate.
Your executor should be someone who can commit to responsibilities over the long term. If you have minor children or other minor
beneficiaries, your executor may have responsibilities that last for many years—until your children are old enough to take their share of
If at all possible, your executor should be someone who is resident in Alberta. Although non-Alberta residents can act as executors, they
may have to post a bond with the Court. These bonds can sometimes be difficult to obtain.
If you don’t think there is anyone among your friends or family who you feel to be qualified to act as executor, consider using the services of
a corporate trustee. For a reasonable fee, a corporate trustee can provide the necessary expertise to administer your estate.
Get Legal Advice
The best way to ensure your wishes are carried out is to get legal advice when making your will. Your lawyer can identify issues of specific
concern to you in a way that no stationer’s form can match. Your lawyer can also answer any questions you may have. You’ve spent a
lifetime building your wealth. Doesn’t it make sense to have a professional give you advice on preserving and distributing that wealth?
This brochure gives general information on the law as it relates to wills.
It is not legal advice. You should contact a lawyer to get specific
legal advice on whether you require probate and on
administering estates generally.
10244 123 Street Edmonton, AB T5N 1N4
p 780.451.7557 f 780.451.5075 www.theestatehouse.ca