Estate Planning in a Nutshell

What is a Will and Why Do You Need One?

A Will is a written document that appoints a person to manage your estate (“executor”) and outlines to whom your property is to be given after you pass away.


  • Reduction of stress, conflict, costs and delay for your family
  • Appointment of a guardian for minor children
  • Burial and funeral preferences stated
  • Control over distribution of your estate
  • Control over special or sentimental property
  • Ability to make gifts to family, friends and charities

What happens if you don’t have a Will?

A person who dies without a will dies “intestate.

  • Administrator of your estate will be determined by priority rules set out in the Estate Administration Act
    • General priority is given to the following persons in order: spouse/partner, adult children, grandchildren, parents, siblings
  • Distribution of estate property will be made to certain persons according to Wills and Succession Act (Alberta)
    • General priority is to the following persons in order: spouse/partner, children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, grandparents

Who Can Make a Will?

A person can make a will if:

  1. They are over 18 years of age (some exceptions to this rule)
  2. Have mental capacity
    • Must understand the nature and effect of making a will
    • Must be free from undue influence

What is Criteria for a Valid Will?

Wills must be in writing. They cannot be verbal or videotaped. Wills must also meet one of the following criteria:

  • Formal will – Signed by testator and two eligible witnesses
  • Holograph will – Written in testator’s own handwriting and signed
  • Military will – Made by Canadian Forces member while on active service with no witnesses

What is an Enduring Power of Attorney?

An EPA is a document in which you appoint another person, your “attorney,” to manage your financial affairs and property in the event that you lack mental capacity to manage your own affairs. You can specify the financial support to be provided to your spouse and children.

What is a Personal Directive?

A PD is a document in which you appoint another person, your “agent,” to make personal decisions for you in the event that you lack mental capacity to make your own personal decisions.

Personal decisions include medical decisions, where you reside, and who can visit you. You can also choose and appoint someone to act as guardian of your minor children.

If you would like more information about the estate planning process, please contact us at