Holographic Wills in Alberta – What You Need to Consider

Can You Write a Will for Yourself in Alberta?

Anna Dunaeva DLegal Anna Dunaeva August 23, 2021
DLegal Law Office - Wills

What Is a Holographic Will?

Simply put, a holographic Will in Alberta is a Will that is entirely hand-written by the testator, being the person who makes a Will for herself. A testator does not need a notary for a holographic Will. A holographic Will is another way to write down your last wishes as an alternative to a printed Will or a Will drafted by a lawyer.

Are Handwritten Wills Valid in Alberta?

While not all jurisdictions recognize handwritten or holographic Wills, Alberta does permit them. Still, a holographic Will must meet specific requirements to be legally valid in Alberta. As long as a hand-written Will satisfies all the rules, it is a legally binding document. Failure to meet the standards creates uncertainty for your significant ones. Also, it may result in the ultimate invalidity of your Last Will and Testament.

How Do You Write a Holographic Will in Alberta?

First of all, do your research to understand the rules applicable to Wills in the province. The Alberta Wills and Succession Act provides that a Will may be written wholly in the testator’s hand and signed by the testator. In addition, a Will must show a deliberate intention of the testator to dispose of the property upon death.

Use simple language when drafting your Will to let others understand it completely. Avoid legalese because most people misuse legal terms. There is no magic behind legal words, and you can use simple language to convey your testamentary intentions. However, when misused, legal terms may carry highly harmful consequences.

Use full names for your executors (aka personal representatives), guardians, and beneficiaries, and indicate relationships so these people could be easily identifiable. Discuss your intentions with executors and guardians to make sure they want to take on these roles. Remember that they have no obligation to accept your appointments. If they refuse, the court will have to appoint someone else.

Make sure that your Will covers all your property. If you leave a particular asset to one person in your holographic Will, explain your reasons for doing so. This may help to avoid disputes because other people may have certain expectations regarding the same property. Do not forget to address the residue, meaning everything else left in your estate. Consider naming contingent beneficiaries to ensure that your estate goes to the right hands even if the primary recipients of your estate do not take it for some reason.

Put the date on which you sign the holographic Will in Alberta. Without a date, one may argue that the Will was drafted in shady circumstances. Alternatively, if you lose capacity after you prepare a Will, a date on the Will may help prove that you were still capable of making it on that date. Without a date, one may argue that you drafted your holographic Will after you lost legal capacity. Also, if you created multiple Wills over time, a date helps determine which of them is your most recent one.

Should I Write My Own Will?

A well-written Will is probably one of the most important things you need to do to help your family through a difficult time. But, unfortunately, without comprehensive legal knowledge, making a Will yourself often means having no Will at all.

Still, suppose you are in an emergency, near death, or cannot consult with a lawyer for some reason. In that case, it is potentially suitable to create at least a handwritten Will. Alternatively, a holographic Will may be an option if your estate is straightforward and has no minor children or other dependents. This way, you have a chance to be heard and to protect your significant ones from death.

However, if you have minor kids, other dependants, or a blended family, consider discussing your Will and estate planning options with a lawyer. The same is true if you own a house, bank accounts, investments, business, or assets in multiple jurisdictions. The legal fees for a piece of good legal advice are way lower than what your loved ones may need to pay if you leave a messy estate on death.

Cons of Holographic Wills in Alberta

One must be very cautious with holographic Wills in Alberta. Unfortunately, many people fail to deliver their estate planning intentions understandably and comprehensively. As a result, you have an incomplete Will, which is difficult to enforce but easy to dispute. Such Wills are not going to get much respect, and their validity may be questioned in court. As a result, the beneficiaries under your Will may end up with time-consuming and expensive litigation. Also, many of your last wishes may be misunderstood or disregarded.

More importantly, you may have written a Will only to have your loved ones find out on your death that the Will is not valid. Failure to leave a valid Will means that you died intestate, and statutory rules and the court will make choices for you.

Do-It-Yourself Wills

One can find tons of information on how to make a Will today. Some people explore Will templates from books or websites. Template Wills could be an excellent alternative to a holographic Will. Still, if you wish to try this path, make sure that the resources you use apply to Alberta because each province and jurisdiction has its specific requirements for a Will to be valid. Also, make sure to complete your draft correctly. Further, your language and intentions must be clear.

Finally, because such templates are often printed, they are not holographic Wills and need to meet specific formalities. Failure to satisfy the formalities may invalidate the Will. At the very least, printed Wills require two witnesses. Another widespread mistake with printed templates is when a testator uses both typewritten and handwritten instructions in the same document. Failure to create a wholly handwritten or a fully typed Will results in handwritten and typed portions of the Will being examined separately. As a result, some (and probably the most crucial) portions of your Will may be excluded and disregarded.

Please, please, be very cautious with your Will. If you have any questions or doubts about the validity of your Will, make sure to discuss it with a wills lawyer. At the very least, do your research. Being mindful about your estate now will protect your significant ones after you are gone. DLegal wills and estates lawyers are proud of helping Albertans prepare for the future. So, feel free to reach out to our friendly team by phone or email or through the contact form whenever you need guidance on your wills and estates options.


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