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The answer is YES. I believe that every person who is eligible to make a Will, should have a Will. The reasons are many, but here are a few of the most important ones:
- People often assume that their immediate family (spouse, common-law partner, adult children) will be able to look after their estate if they pass away. This is incorrect. No person, not even a spouse, has the legal authority to deal with your estate when you pass away. Having a Will makes the process of estate administration much easier because the person you name as your executor (now called your Personal Representative) takes authority from the Will immediately upon your death, and can begin administering certain aspects of your estate right away. Without a Will, no steps can be taken until a grant of administration is obtained from the Court. Even with a Will, your Personal Representative may have to apply for a Grant of Probate in order to deal with some of your assets, but institutions like banks and investment companies are much more cooperative and willing to provide information to the person named in a Will as the Personal Representative than they are to a person making inquiries that has no Will to rely on. By making a Will, you make the process of settling your estate much easier and less stressful for your family and friends who may are left to sort out your estate without any guidance from you and without knowing your wishes.
- A Will allows you to choose who will act as your Personal Representative and administer your estate. You can choose a person(s) whom you trust and you know will follow your wishes as you have set them out in your Will. If you die without a Will, legislation in Alberta provides a list of the people who have the first right to apply to administer your estate, but that may not be who you would choose to do this job for you.
- A Will allows you to choose who will receive the proceeds of your estate. Although you have a legal obligation to support your dependents (spouse, common-law partner, minor children, adult children who are unable to earn a livelihood due to a physical or mental disability), you can otherwise make gifts as you choose. If you die without a Will, again there is legislation in Alberta that determines which family members will receive your estate.
- A Will allows you to leave gifts to a charity or charities in the amounts or proportions you decide. Without a Will, there is no provision for any of your estate to be given to the charities you supported during your lifetime. For many people it is important to them that some of their estate be left to their favorite charities. There are also some income tax benefits to your estate to making charitable gifts in your Will.
Making a Will is much easier than most people think. I often have clients comment when they are leaving my office having signed their Wills about how simple and easy the process was, and had they known, they would have done a Will much sooner.
I encourage everyone to make a Will to make it easier for your loved ones to take care of your estate during a sad and stressful time for them, to prevent unnecessary family disputes, and to ensure that your estate is given to those that you want to receive it.