Ridout Barron


Wills and estates: What does it mean to die intestate?

When people in Alberta die without having legal wills, the term "intestate" comes into play. A will typically states how the deceased person's assets must be distributed; however, intestacy makes it a matter to be dealt with by the Wills and Succession Act. Similarly, if there is a will that the court finds invalid, it will also be deemed an intestate estate.

When a person dies with a legal will, an executor is named to manage the distribution of assets. In an intestate death, the Wills and Succession Act must carry out those functions and locate any heirs who might have legal rights to inheritances. Fairness is not a consideration under the act because the outcome is not based on each family member's needs.

The process to identify the heirs starts with a spouse or an adult independent partner. If the spouse or partner is the parent of the deceased person's children, he or she might inherit the entire estate. The process becomes complicated if there are children of the deceased person who are not the surviving adult partner or spouse's biological children. In such a case, 50% of the estate might go to the surviving spouse or independent adult partner, with the children receiving the balance.

Another scenario involves grandchildren of the deceased person who lost their parents before their grandparent's death. If their parents had survived, they would have been entitled to a portion of the estate. Therefore, the grandchildren will be allocated that portion. These are only some of the ways in which the Wills and Succession Act will distribute assets of an intestate estate. People in Alberta could avoid these complications and make it easier for surviving loved ones by establishing wills and estates to control the way their assets will be distributed.

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Ridout Barron

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