What Your Will Can and Cannot Do, Part 1: The Capabilities

What Your Will Can and Cannot Do, Part 1: The Capabilities

An up-to-date will is a key part of any effective estate plan. It accomplishes several important goals, foremost of which is allowing you to specify how your estate will be distributed after you pass away and naming a guardian for any minor children who survive you. A will also prevents the time and expense of litigating your estate, protecting the inheritances of your loved ones and preventing a dispute from fracturing the family.

You Can Choose Your Beneficiaries

A properly drawn-up will allows you to name your beneficiaries. If you pass without a will, the Alberta Wills and Succession Act indicates who will inherit your estate and how it will be distributed. If you are married or have an adult interdependent partner and have children with him or her, that spouse / partner is entitled to receive your entire estate. If you have children but no spouse, everything will be divided equally amongst your children. This may be what you want, or it may not. In either event, naming beneficiaries in your will eliminates any uncertainty.

You Can Specify Who Gets What

Do you want your son to get your antique coin collection on your death? Do you want a certain amount of money set aside for your grandchild’s college tuition? Do you want to gift money to a favourite charity? Your will can ensure that all money, property, and other assets are disposed of in accordance with your wishes and prevent disputes among your heirs.

You Can Name an Executor

If you don’t have a will, the Estate Administration Act establishes a priority list for administration applicants. In Alberta, top priority is given to the surviving spouse, although the Court may end up granting administration to anyone it considers appropriate. A will enables you to name an executor who is ideal for the role in terms of responsibility and even residence: if you choose someone who lives outside of Alberta, he or she may have to post a bond and any income earned on estate assets may be taxed at higher rates. Someone who lives within the province bypasses the bond requirement and taxation rates could possibly be lower.

You Can Name Guardians for Minor Children

You may also specify who will raise your children if you pass while they are still minors. The children’s other biological or adoptive parent is the presumptive legal guardian, but you may have concerns about that person’s ability or inclination to care for them. If your wishes are not set out in a will, the Court may appoint a guardian who might not have been your ideal choice for the role.

You Can Protect the Interests of Minor Beneficiaries

In Alberta, the Public Trustee must be advised and deal with all property and assets that a minor is entitled to receive under a will. If that child’s surviving parent or guardian wants to assume the role of managing the property, they must obtain a Court order, which will likely require them to provide a bond and officially account to the Court at certain intervals. If there is a specific party that you want to manage your children’s property, you can name him or her in the will,  irrespective of the value of the property.

It’s important to revisit your will every five years to ensure that it reflects your current circumstances and any changed wishes.

If you are planning to create or update your will, the estate planning team at Estate Connection can help you make the best and most strategic decisions for your circumstances. Call us today for support in drafting a will that reflects your goals for your estate. And be sure to check out Part 2 of this blog discussing the limitations of your will so you can better understand the estate planning services you may need beyond just drafting a simple will—coming soon!

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Written by Stacy Maurier