Preparing and updating a will.

In this article we outline the basics of a will and encourage you to set up and maintain your will as situations in your life change.

why do I need a will?

Having a will in place is an important step for your estate plan but the set-up process can be overwhelming. We outline below the basics of a will and encourage you to set up and maintain your will as situations in your life change.

A will is a legal document outlining how your assets should be distributed when you pass away, naming an executor who will complete your estate wishes, and naming a guardian who will raise your children if they are minors.


While it can be easy to avoid writing a will, it is important to have one in place, so your children and assets are taken care of as you wish. This can provide you with peace of mind knowing how your possessions will be passed on. Each province has its own process regarding dying intestate (without a will), the process in Alberta is outlined in the Wills and Succession Act.

why-do-I-need-a-will

preparing a will

Not sure how to get started? We recommend consulting a lawyer to arrange and prepare your will however, it is possible to create your own keeping in mind the formalities involved. A formal will is written, includes your signature, and is signed in the presence of two witnesses. These witnesses must also sign in your presence, whereas a holograph will is handwritten by you and signed by yourself.

Since your executor will be working to carryout your will, it is important to notify them where your will can be found. This can be an uncomfortable conversation but makes following your wishes easier and allows for a smoother process for your executor during an emotional time.

If you have minor children and are naming a guardian, you will need to discuss this significant role with them, so it is not a shock if they need to fulfill this responsibility. Similar discussions will be needed with your power of attorney and personal directive if you appoint them while writing your will. Click here to learn more about these roles but a quick overview is a power of attorney and personal directive look after your financial and personal affairs in the event you become incapacitated.

updating a will

If your family situation changes, you will need to update your will to include your new spouse/common law partner and children. Your pets can be a major source of joy in your home and are also important to keep in mind when writing a will. You may include who will take care of them and allocate funds to assist them with your pet’s costs.

Your will should also be reviewed after changes to your financial or personal situations such as receiving an inheritance, purchasing a home or other property, starting a business, or if you want to change your named executor, guardian, or beneficiaries.

You can make changes to your will through your lawyer or create a new will or codicil which need to be written, dated, and signed by you and two witnesses.

dying intestate

If you pass away before creating a will, you are deemed to have died intestate. Your assets will be subject to provincial law regarding disbursement which can result in delays and additional expenses. Dying intestate also means there was no executor appointed and your final wishes may not be known. The responsibility of an executor is left to loved ones who may disagree among themselves resulting in tension and division.

bottom line

While you will likely experience many emotions in estate planning, many find comfort in knowing how their loved ones will be looked after and how their property will be distributed when they pass. Having your will in place can save your executor and loved ones time and stress through an already difficult time.

At SANDSTONE we recommend you consult with your legal team to ensure all the legal documents pertaining to your estate are in place. We can assist you as you go through the thought process of writing your will and are happy to introduce you to a lawyer. Furthermore, we can provide an independent analysis once your will is complete.