Wills, Estates + Trusts
Wills, Estates + Trusts
Overview
Experience
People
News + Views + Events
FAQ
Helpful Links

Wills, estates, and trusts need to be dealt with skillfully to ensure assets are distributed the way an owner intends. It is essential to retain a knowledgeable lawyer that handles matters within their local region as laws may differ in each province or territory. Field Law’s Wills + Estates and Trusts Team has extensive experience working with legal estate and will matters in Alberta, Yellowknife, and Northwest Territories.

Wills + Estate planning

We can advise you on how to most effectively arrange your affairs to avoid unnecessary probate taxes or litigation and to ensure your loved ones, assets, and business interests are protected in the event of death or incapacity. Our team can work with you on drafting Wills, Enduring Powers of Attorney and Personal Directives.

Estate Administration

Many people who are named as estate trustees or executors in a Will have no training or experience in the role. The process of estate administration may seem straightforward; however, technical requirements imposed by various pieces of legislation must be met. Consulting with a lawyer early in the estate administration will ensure that the administration proceeds timely and efficiently, eliminating liability, stress, and frustration.

Trusts

Whether you are developing a business succession plan or want to protect your family’s future, we recognize that estate planning does not happen in isolation. Our goal is to design customized strategies to best protect what matters most to you.

Guardianship + Trusteeship

Guardianship is the authority to make decisions regarding property and finances or personal care on behalf of an incapacitated adult. Guardianship applications are lengthy, detailed and require having a plan in place to care for the assets of the incapable person and the management of the person. Guardianship is often sought in cases when the adult incapacitated person did not have a power of attorney for property. This is why it is so important to think about planning for incapacity when putting together your estate plan.

Estate Litigation + Dispute Resolution

Estate litigation is governed by a separate set of procedural rules requiring detailed legal knowledge. Contentious issues often arise at emotionally difficult times and litigation is not always the best solution.

The Estate and Trust Dispute Resolution Team at Field Law has extensive experience working with executors, administrators, attorneys, agents, trustees and beneficiaries in the negotiation, mediation, arbitration and litigation of claims. We have the knowledge and experience to assist you with resolution of a wide range of disputes relating to wills, trusts, and estate administration. We carefully consider and offer a range of dispute resolution and collaborative alternatives to the traditional litigation process.

Charities / Non-Profits

The team regularly advises both local and national charities and private foundations on governance issues to ensure compliance with CRA’s strict rules regarding the operation of such entities.  

Cross-Border

Many clients have family businesses with cross-border operational issues requiring sophisticated succession planning strategies to ensure the seamless transition of business ownership and assets between generations. Field Law's Immigration lawyers also regularly collaborate with the Wills, Estates + Trusts team to provide one-stop service to clients with international aspects to their estate. 

Click here to sign up to receive invitations to seminars, webinars and events as well as online publications with the latest information from our Wills, Estates + Trusts team. 

Malmberg v Boyd , 2020 ABQB 326
Splett v Splett, 2017 ABQB 658
Graeff Estate v Huey, 2020 ABQB 330
Martin v Hunter, 2021 ABQB 153
Splett v Splett, 2020 ABCA 61
Malmberg v Boyd , 2020 ABQB 80
Hood v South Calgary Community Church, 2019 ABCA 34
Estate of Alec Goodzeck, 2018 NWTSC 68
Moore Estate (Re), 2018 ABQB 614
Rodehutskors Estate (Re), 2018 ABQB 562
Birkenbach Estate (Re), 2018 ABQB 538
Edmunds Estate, 2017 ABQB 754
Lindsay Estate (Re), 2017 ABQB 452
Anderson Estate, 2017 ABQB 422
Anderson Estate (Re), 2016 ABQB 683
Nelson Estate (Re), 2014 ABQB 765
Nelson Estate (Re), 2014 ABQB 413
Brousseau v. Janz Estate, 2014 ABQB 136
Benefield v. Alberta (Public Trustee), Benefield v. Alberta (Public Trustee), 2001 ABQB 242
August 2021
The Best Lawyers™ in Canada 2022
38 Field Lawyers Recognized
Field Law is pleased to announce that 38 of our lawyers are recognized in their respective practice areas in the 16th edition of The Best Lawyers™ in Canada. Recognition in Best Lawyers™ is based on peer reviews of ...
April 2021 - 3 min read
Why You Should Avoid Using a Will Kit
Will kits are inexpensive, but that may be their only redeeming quality. It can be very tempting to pick up a $30 fill-in-the-blanks Will kit rather than retaining a lawyer, but before you do, you should consider the risks involved.A Will kit can be pu...
January 2021
Field Law Announces Five New Partners
The Firm welcomes Anthony Burden, Jason Kully, Lisa Statt Foy, Britt Tetz, and Matthew Turzansky to its partnership.Field Law is pleased to welcome Anthony Burden, Jason Kully, Lisa Statt Foy, Britt Tetz, and Matthew Turzansky as partners of the Firm. ...
August 2020
The Best Lawyers™ in Canada 2021
38 Fielders Recognized
Field Law is pleased to announce that 38 of our lawyers are recognized in their respective practice areas in the 15th edition of The Best Lawyers™ in Canada. Recognition in Best Lawyers™ is based on peer reviews of ...
May 2020 - 4 min read
Virtual Witnessing of Wills in Alberta Not so Clear
In Alberta, as in most other provinces, generally wills, powers of attorney and personal directives need to be signed and witnessed in person for the documents to be legally valid.  Our wills legislation allows certain departur...
May 2020 - 1 min read
Remote Witnessing of Wills, Enduring Power of Attorneys, and Personal Directives Arrives in Alberta
Alberta’s Ministry of Justice and Solicitor General has announced a process for remote witnessing and signing of wills, enduring power of attorneys, and personal directives during this time of public emergency. Temporary amendments have been...
May 2020
Legal Report: The Evolution of Medically Assisted Death
Canadian Lawyer
April 2020
Estate lawyers in British Columbia and Alberta Field End of Life Questions About Wills
Canadian Lawyer
April 2020
Ontario Court to Consider Whether a Will can be Witnessed Online
Globe and Mail
March 2020 - 2 min read
A Question of Priorities (If You Want to Administer an Estate)
Appointing a personal representative is one of the first substantive things addressed in a Will and one of the key choices a person can make with respect to their estate plan. When a person dies without a will, someone must apply to the Court to obtain...
March 2020
Sticky Situation: Sticky Note Will Accepted by Alberta Court
While our office remains open during the escalating global coronavirus (COVID-19) situation in Alberta, we have taken steps to minimize the potential impact of the virus in accordance with our firm’s business continuity plan and th...
December 2019
No Life After Death: Woman Loses Battle to Use Deceased Husband’s Sperm
Surviving spouse loses fight to use reproductive material taken from deceased husband due to lack of consent.  In L.T. v D.T. Estate (Re), 2019 BCSC 2130, the BC Supreme Court dealt with a difficult and challenging application advanced by a s...
May 2019
Estate Planning for Privacy
The Supreme Court of Canada may soon be considering the intersection between estate and privacy law as well as the public policy behind the “open court” principle.  The personal representatives of the estates of murdered Canadian billi...
May 2019
Act On Your Legal Obligations to Avoid Post-Death Disputes
A recent case from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Birnie v Birnie, 2019 ONSC 2152, has several important lessons for Canadians when it comes to estate planning.  The case is an important reminder to be aware of your existing legal obligati...
October 11, 2018
Field Law Introduces New Tax Team
Field Law is pleased to welcome five new lawyers, including one as partner, and two support staff who will significantly enhance the firm’s capacity to offer tax services to clients. As of Oct. 1, 2018, a group of new tax, cross-border, business ...
November 22, 2018
Tips + Resources for Charities and Non-Profits as Estate Beneficiaries
Seminars
Wills, Estates + Trusts Seminar
Join Field Law’s Wills, Estates + Trusts Group and your colleagues from the non-profit sector for a complimentary lunchtime seminar. This seminar is designed to assist charities and non-profit organizations and their staff with an understanding o...
June 2018
Probate for Paddington: Michael Bond, CBE (1926-2017)
One year ago, Michael Bond, CBE the creator of the beloved literary character, Paddington Bear, passed away in London, England at age 91. Though I recall seeing snippets of Paddington Bear on the television when I was young, I never actively watched th...
June 2018
Pay Attention to What You Pay For
It is fairly rare for judges to directly criticize lawyers in written decisions relating to estate matters, at least in my experience. When I do run across it, it sends a strong signal because there is usually an important lesson in the criticism. The ...
June 2018
A Star Extinguished: Anton Yelchin (1989-2016)
Two years ago to this day, a promising young actor's life was cut short by a tragic accident at his Los Angeles home. Anton Yelchin, age 27, was killed in his driveway when his SUV rolled back and pinned him against his security fence and mailbox. ...
May 2, 2018
Tips + Resources for Charities and Non-Profits as Estate Beneficiaries
Wills, Estates + Trusts Seminar
Join Field Law’s Wills, Estates + Trusts Group and your colleagues from the non-profit sector for a complimentary lunchtime seminar. This seminar is designed to assist charities and non-profit organizations and their staff with an understanding o...
April 2018
Is Spousal Support Available After Death?
Perhaps encouraged by the recent decision in Marasse Estate, we have another recent case from the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench addressing an estate’s ability to claim spousal support and its liability to pay spousal support. Stalzer ...
March 2018
Rolling the Dice on Costs of Estate Litigation
Alberta Courts have been busy on the topic of costs in estate litigation in the past few months. Four recent decisions issued out of three judicial centres in Alberta provide a good reminder of just how unpredictable litigation is and the Court’s...
March 2018
Mo’ Money, Mo’ Administration
Today marks the 21st anniversary of the death of Christopher Wallace, or probably better known to you as legendary rap artist Notorious BIG or Biggie. Wallace died at the age of 24 after being shot in Los Angeles. The controversy surrounding his death ...
March 2018
Double Duty: Executors’ Tax Filing Obligations
If you dread doing your own taxes, then think twice about becoming an executor of an estate. One of the core duties of a personal representative is to deal with the deceased’s taxes. In Alberta, the duty is contained right in the Surrogate Rules,...
February 2018
You May Have to Keep Your Promises
Some people are good for their word. Others are not. Depending on the circumstances, a promise you make may not be legally enforceable. However, in the words of the outgoing Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada in the recent judg...
January 2018
An Unconscionable Bargain
Generally speaking, the law will not protect you from making a bad bargain. However, when a transaction is so grossly unfair to one party and was obtained through an unfair advantage by the other party, the legal doctrine of unconscionability may ...
January 2018
North of 60 Series: Estate Administration in the Northwest Territories
I have been on quite the hiatus since last year!  I apologize – I have found that a wills and estates practice inevitably ramps up in the last month of the year on both the planning and litigation sides and last December was no exception. I...
December 2017
A Different Kind of Joint Problem
Parents who intend to transfer their assets into joint names with some or all of their adult children need to carefully consider that decision before implementing the transfers. A series of recent Court cases in Western Canada highlight the need f...
November 2017
The Devil is in the Drafting: Is an Estate Entitled to Spousal Support Payments?
The recent Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench decision in Marasse Estate (Re), 2017 ABQB 706 is yet another reminder that drafting legal documents must be done carefully and with a view to their long-term effect. The main issue in this case was wheth...
November 2017
It’s Your Funeral, but Who Calls the Shots?
If you have a will, you may have spelled out your detailed wishes for your funeral in the document. Would you be surprised to know that your personal representative does not have to follow them? You may have also heard that funeral expenses g...
November 2017
My Last Will and Textament
What would you look for in a document to determine if it was a legally valid will? An Australian man’s estate recently made headlines when the Queensland Supreme Court admitted an unsent text message into probate as his valid last will.The d...
October 2017
(Don’t) Live Together, Love Together
A frequent area of estate litigation involves claims by adult interdependent partners against the estates of their deceased partners. An adult interdependent partner is roughly the Alberta equivalent of a common law spouse, but may include other t...
October 2017
You Can Ask for Advice and Directions
Acting as an executor or personal representative is a challenging job. A personal representative is expected to follow the terms of a will, trust document or Court order and to do so prudently and competently. Sometimes, the testator or the s...
June 2017
Define Your Children in Your Will
Clarity matters when preparing your will and estate plan in Alberta. Even a seemingly simple direction to divide your estate equally between your children may run into unexpected problems if you have a complex family structure and are not clear enough ...
June 2017
The King of Pop on Death and Taxes
Today is the eighth anniversary of the death of Michael Jackson, the undisputed King of Pop. Albertans preparing wills and estate plans should look beyond the sensational headlines about the singer’s life and the circumstances of his death a...
June 2013
Alter Ego and Joint Partner Trusts: Estate Planning Beyond a Will
For many, estate planning begins and ends with the preparation and execution of a legally valid Will. Certainly, a valid Will, together with an Enduring Power of Attorney and a Personal Directive, allows an individual to dispose of their property ...

Question:

Should you have a Will?

Answer:

In Alberta, if you do not have a Will, your estate will be distributed pursuant to the intestacy provisions of the Wills and Succession Act. Other assets, such as property held jointly with another person or property which has a designated beneficiary (such as life insurance or RRSPs) will pass directly to the surviving joint owner or the designated beneficiary if they survive you, and generally not form part of your estate. There may, however, be circumstances where assets are held in joint tenancy for administrative convenience but are intended to be distributed to someone other than the joint tenant.

Question:

What is an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA)?

Answer:

An Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) allows you to appoint someone (your Attorney) to manage your financial affairs. An EPA “endures” even if you lose your mental capacity, meaning that the person you appoint can manage your financial affairs in the event that you become mentally incapacitated.

Question:

What is a Personal Directive (PD)?

Answer:

A Personal Directive (PD) allows you to appoint someone (your Agent) to make decisions with respect to personal and healthcare-related matters in the event you are unable to make reasonable decisions concerning such matters (or unable to communicate such decisions). A Personal Directive is also sometimes referred to as a “living will.”

Question:

What Are The Steps to Preparing a Legally-Enforceable Will?

Answer:

The first step to preparing a Will, Enduring Power of Attorney and Personal Directive is a consultation with a lawyer. Your individual needs and wishes will be discussed and you may be asked to complete an Estate Planning Questionnaire prior to the meeting. Once the documents have been drafted, the drafts will be sent to you for your review and comment. Once it is confirmed that the documents properly reflect your wishes, a meeting will be scheduled with the lawyer to execute the documents.

Question:

How Long Does It Typically Take for a Will to be Drafted?

Answer:

A Will may be drafted quickly once final instructions are received. The process of finalizing a Will typically takes 4-6 weeks to complete (after the first meeting with an estate planning lawyer). However, we can typically prepare documents faster where such documents need to be executed on an urgent basis.

Question:

How Much Do You Charge to Prepare a Will?

Answer:

As every individual has unique and specific requests and circumstances, our fees for preparing a legally-enforceable Will, Enduring Power of Attorney and Personal Directive is determined on an individual basis. Please contact one of our lawyers for further information.

Question:

Will your spouse receive all of your Estate?

Answer:

The Wills and Succession Act prescribes that, after payment of debts, your spouse or "adult interdependent partner" will only receive the whole of your estate if all of your surviving ‘descendants’ are also the ‘descendants’ of your spouse or adult interdependent partner. ‘Descendants’ is given a broad definition under the Wills and Succession Act, and means more than just children. Therefore, if even one of your children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren are not also the children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren of your surviving spouse or adult interdependent partner - he or she will not receive the entirety of your estate.

Question:

What happens when you leave some of your estate to minor children?

Answer:

As a general rule, all property (including money) in excess of $5,000 which a minor (under 18 years of age) is entitled to receive must be delivered to the Public Trustee. If the surviving parent wishes to manage your child’s property on his or her behalf, they will have to obtain a Court Order appointing them as trustee of the child’s property. Of perhaps greater concern is that, without a properly drafted Will, the Public Trustee will be required to release all of your child’s or grandchild’s property to him or her when they reach the age of majority - irrespective of the value of the property or his or her ability to handle money. This situation can be avoided with a properly-drafted Will.

Question:

What is a guardian?

Answer:

The biological or adoptive parents of a child are presumptively the legal guardians of the child - however, you may have concerns about your child’s other biological parent or want your spouse (who may be a custodial adult through second marriage but not your child’s biological parent) to be the guardian of your child. If such concerns or wishes are not clearly expressed in a Will, they are unlikely to be honoured.

Question:

What about your other wishes?

Answer:

Do you want a particular child to receive all of your jewellery on your death? Is it your wish that the Guardian of your children not work outside the home? Do you want to be cremated? Do you want to designate the person who is to be the executor and Trustee of your estate? Do you want to leave a gift to a favourite charity? If so, you need a properly drafted Will. A Will is the only way to ensure that your choices regarding support and protection of your children, distribution of property, funeral instructions and any other testamentary wishes are communicated and legally enforceable.

 


Disclaimer: The above information is intended to provide commentary on frequently asked questions in this area of law and should not be interpreted as providing legal advice.  Please contact a group member before acting on any of the information.

The following links are additional resources that may be useful:

Estate Planning Questionnaire

  • Our Estate Planning Questionnaire assists with the estate planning process.
  • The Questionnaire facilitates an efficient meeting, as it assists us in ensuring that we are aware of all relevant information, and promotes family discussion prior to the meeting. Fill in the Questionnaire and bring it in when meeting with us.
  • We also look forward to meeting with you in person to discuss estate planning considerations, in order to create a customized estate plan that is appropriate to your circumstances.
  • To book a meeting with one of our estate planning lawyers, please contact Cindy O'Hara at 403-260-8575 or by email at cohara@fieldlaw.com, or contact one of our lawyers directly (see the "People" tab for their contact information).
  • Please note, we suggest saving the above document to your computer prior to adding any information to the form