What Happens if I Don’t have a Will in Alberta?

Posted by heritagelawoffices on Feb 10, 2019 in Blog, Wills & Estate

Last will and testament form with pen and gavelDrafting a legal will can seem like a simple inconvenience or a daunting ordeal, but it is absolutely essential if you want to have a say in who inherits your property, sentimental values and even unpleasant things like your debts. If left undone, there are regulations in place that ensure some very minor protection to certain relations. While estate law covers some people such as legal spouses and children, family lines are blurrier than ever these days– contact or visit Heritage Law today to make sure your preferred beneficiaries have a secure future.

The term intestate means you have died without a valid will for some or all of your estate. When this happens, the Wills and Succession Act— a 68-page document– contains a list of people that receive priority to apply for the chance to handle the estate. If a suitable person or surrogate cannot be found, the Office of the Public Trustee may step into the role. On the surface this may sound like an easy way out, but the consequences may not be as minor as you think.

Default beneficiaries for intestate estates are generally as follows:

  • A surviving spouse or adult interdependent partner, if both exist then the spouse and partner will split the estate;
  • If there are surviving children that descend from the surviving spouse/partner, the spouse/partner receives the estate;
  • If the children are not related, the spouse/partner receives $150,000 or 50% (whichever is larger) and the remaining is divided among the children;
  • There are some provisions to prevent estranged spouses/partners from inheriting the estate if the circumstances meet certain requirements;
  • Without a surviving spouse or child, the estate will pass to the person’s parent(s)– with no parents, the estate is split among surviving siblings and their descendants;
  • Beyond this, an escalating system identifies next of kin via parental lineage and splits the estate as such.

Complicated, right? And that’s only the beginning. The above list is only a very short summary of the ins and outs of estate distribution. If none of the parameters can be met and a next-of-kin cannot be found, your estate will pass to the Provincial Treasurer where it will be kept aside for possible beneficiaries for 10 years before passing permanently to the Crown of Alberta.

As you can see, there is some protection for those that die without a will. Unfortunately, this security is not fail safe as there are many modern definitions of family and loved ones. Life is always changing, not black-and-white. Don’t let your estate slip through the cracks. Have a will prepared at Heritage Law today!