Wills, Personal Directives and Powers of Attorney: What's the difference?

AuthorSimons, Sherry

A complete estate plan includes three documents: a Will, Enduring Power of Attorney, and Personal Directive. Are you prepared?

A complete estate plan includes three documents: a Will, Enduring Power of Attorney, and Personal Directive. Each province and territory has its own laws about these documents.

A person normally makes their estate plan according to the laws of the area where they live. However, there may be special circumstances when a person may need two or more sets of estate planning documents. For example, if a person lives in Alberta, but also owns property in another province or country, they may need to have estate documents prepared in Alberta and also in that other province or country. When in doubt, consult a lawyer!

So, what are the differences among these three documents and what do they each do?

  1. Last Will and Testament ("Will")

    A Will is a written document that appoints a person (known as your personal representative or executor) to manage your affairs and property when you pass away. Your personal representative is responsible for making funeral arrangements, taking control of all your property, paying all your bills, filing your final tax return, and then distributing any special gifts and the remainder of your cash and property.

    Your Will specifies to whom your property is to be given. You can list specific gifts to certain people for special items, such as collectibles and family heirlooms. And for those of you who have fur babies, you can of course specify who is to look after your pets when you pass away.

    You can include funeral wishes in your Will if you like. You can also appoint a guardian for your dependent children.

    A Will must be made and signed properly to be valid, so it's best to get legal help to prevent challenges to your Will.

    Who can make a Will?

    A person can make a Will in Alberta if:

  2. they are at least 18 years of age (there are some limited exceptions to this rule).

  3. they have the mental capacity to make a Will. This means the person must fully understand what a Will is and what it does, and the consequences of making their Will. If a person is too sick to make a Will and does not understand what their Will does, then the Will is not valid.

  4. they are free from undue influence. This means the person must make their Will voluntarily and free from strong pressure or influence from anyone else. If someone else is threatening or forcing a person to make a Will or to put certain things into a Will...

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