A commercial that was on the radio a number of years ago made the claim that if you don’t have a Will your estate will go to the government. The basis for the claim was to promote the sale of “do it yourself” Will kits.
The ad got a lot of attention and likely caused many people to purchase the Will kits because they did not want the government to claim their estate.
While having a Will is extremely important, not just for you but for your family, the implication of the commercial was misleading. A number of people from your family will have rights to make a claim against your estate if you fail to prepare a Will.
Under Alberta law if a person dies without a Will (intestate) the distribution of the estate is determined by the Wills and Succession Act (“Act”). The Act provides a succession order for people who die without a Will. Although there are some nuances and each case is evaluated differently, the distribution in the Act can basically be summarized as follows:
First: Die with a Spouse or Partner
If you die leaving a spouse or partner (common law spouse) and have no descendants (kids, grandchild, great grandchild, great great grandchild), your spouse or partner will inherit your entire estate. If you have a spouse or partner and descendants with that spouse or partner your spouse or partner will inherit the entire estate. If the descendants are not born from your spouse or partner, 50% of your estate will go to the spouse or partner and the other 50% will go to your descendants.
Second: Die with no Spouse or Partner
If you die without a spouse or partner then your estate will be divided into equal shares amongst your children. If your children die before you but there are grandchildren for that that deceased child then those grandchildren will inherit your deceased child’s share.
Third: Die with no Spouse, Partner or Descendants
If you die without a spouse, partner or descendants then your estate goes to your parents equally. If one of your parents is deceased the entire estate will go to the surviving parent.
Fourth: Die with no Spouse, Partner, Descendants, or Parents
If you die without a spouse, partner, descendant or parents then your estate will be divided amongst your siblings. If your siblings are deceased then their share shall be divided amongst their children, being your nieces and nephews. If the nieces and nephews are deceased then their portions will be divided amongst your great nieces and nephews.
The Act continues further to more remote relationship and if there are no relatives found in this category and the above avenues are exhausted, then the government may become involved in your estate.
Even though not having a Will does not mean the government gets your estate, dying without a Will can be very costly, especially if an analysis of the family as stated above is required. People that you may have never intended on getting an inheritance may, be rule of law, receive your property. To make sure that your wishes are followed and that your family is not left paying a hefty bill out of your estate, contact us to get started on your Will today.
This post is not intended to be legal advice. Please contact us for any specific questions or advice.