It is not always wise to alert people you are leaving money or other treasures to  in your will, advises cautious lawyers.

It is not always wise to alert people you are leaving money or other treasures to in your will, advises cautious lawyers.

November 9, 2015

One of the main reasons to write a will is because you are naming someone to be in charge of your estate, says Edmonton lawyer Matthew Feehan.

"A will does two things: it names someone to be in charge of your estate and it gives away your assets according to how you want them to be given away."

Everybody should have a will, particularly if you are over 50. "Doing a will is an act of kindness to the people that you are going to leave behind."

If you do a will, you are putting someone in charge of your state. An executor is usually a family member, usually a spouse to begin with.

"But if your spouse passed away before you do then a responsible child (can be named executor)."

The executor's job is to take control of the estate and one of their first tasks is to make funeral arrangements.


In Alberta, you can do the will yourself. That's called a handwritten or a holograph will. But Feehan, a specialist on wills and estates, has personally found that there are lots of problems with that because people generally don't know how to put together a proper will.

"In fact I have a case right now where I'm dealing with a handwritten will but they never named an executor. They gave away their assets, but they didn't name who is supposed to be in charge."

You do a will so you can name an executor to be in charge of your estate, insists Feehan. "You also do a will because it gives you an opportunity to give your assets away as you see fit, keeping in mind that there are certain laws that you must abide by."


Under Alberta law, one must provide for a spouse, children under 18, children between 18 and 22 who are in school and children of any age who cannot work because of mental or physical impediments.

A will doesn't have to be difficult.

"It can be very simple but it's got to have the things in there that need to be in there," Feehan explains.

"And a will has to make sense too."

You can get a Wills Kit at any supermarket "but then you have to read about 30 pages of instructions and then you might put it together incorrectly. And the thing is if you did it yourself you have no one to confirm that you did it correctly."

Most people decide to go to a professional and get it done correctly. Feehan charges $300 for a standard will alone.

The first thing you do after you write the will is to inform your executor that he or she is the executor, "otherwise he or she is not going to know it."


You don't have to show the will to the executor or the beneficiaries, although the executor needs to know where the original will is, just in case.

"They have a duty that needs to be performed very shortly after you pass away.

"But if you start telling beneficiaries that they are going to get gifts, they all might want to take you skydiving.

"Most people don't tell other people they are beneficiaries."