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.
Reportedly, a significant percentage of Canadians, including many in Alberta, believe there is no need to do estate planning. Many people reason that it is obvious that their surviving spouses and children will receive their estates. However, that is not the way things work. Wills are the way to ensure that possessions, money and percentages of estates go to the intended beneficiaries. Without wills, the law will decide how the estate assets like real estate, personal items, vehicles, investments and more will be divided.
When an Alberta resident makes a will, the assets will typically be distributed as per his or her wishes. However, establishing trusts, along with wills and estates, can simplify what is typically a complicated process. A trust will even allow the testator to transfer assets before his or her death.
Anyone in Alberta is responsible for the safekeeping of his or her estate planning documents. Furthermore, sharing the information of where the will and other documents can be found after the testator's death is always a good idea. Suppose a man who lives with one of his daughters learns about that daughter's illegal activities and decides to change his will, leaving her nothing. When he dies, the daughter destroys the new will and presents the older version in which her father left most of his assets to her.
Estate planning may seem daunting, but it is essential for Alberta residents who want their wishes to be followed after their death. Dying without a will leaves all the decisions about the deceased person's estate in the hands of the court, as explained in the Distribution of Intestate Estates in the Wills and Succession Act. However, it does not stop at drafting the will, because life's changes may affect the testator's wishes for the distribution of his or her estate.
An Alberta court can order a constructive trust to right a wrong that led to one party being financially abandoned, abused or taken advantage of by another party. Although such an order can be issued in family court, it also forms part of estate planning under certain circumstances. When the court finds that one party lawfully owes the other party specific property, it can order that the obligated party hold the property in a constructive trust for the other party.
The trauma of losing a loved one could be exacerbated if it becomes clear that someone who expected to be a beneficiary is disinherited. Anyone in Alberta who is in such a situation will want to retain legal counsel at the first opportunity. Once the will is probated and assets are distributed, it might be too late to file a claim contesting it.
Some people in Alberta shy away from thoughts about their own and their spouses' deaths. However, dealing with wills and estates in a timely manner can provide peace of mind. Losing a spouse is understandably traumatic, though having estate plans in place can ease the financial and emotional impact of such a loss.
Estate law in Alberta can be contentious and complicated. The stakes can be high, and in some cases, a will can lead to bitter disputes. When the testator chooses to impose conditions on gifts or bequests, he or she might risk the will, or specific conditions of the will, being declared invalid.
Albertans often shy away from thoughts of their own mortality, but it is never too soon to consider estate planning. As soon as an individual starts earning an income, it is advisable to draft a will. A will is just one aspect of estate planning.