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Wills & Estates Terminology
Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) – Financial and health benefits for Albertans with a permanent medical condition that prevents them from working. Families that are gifting part of their Estate to an individual on AISH should ensure their Will is properly drafted to ensure AISH benefits continue after an AISH recipient receives their inheritance.
Adult Guardianship – Decision-making authority over an adult that lacks the ability to make personal decisions.
Adult Trusteeship – Financial decision-making authority over an adult that lacks the capacity to make their own financial decisions.
Attorney: In Canada, an Attorney is the person that manages another’s financial affairs. Typically, this power comes from a Power of Attorney.
Beneficiary –Within the Wills & Estates context, a beneficiary is a person who is entitled to received assets from the Estate.
Capacity – A person’s legal and mental ability to make or alter a valid will. Each Testator must have Capacity in order to create a Will.
Capacity Assessment – A Capacity Assessment is a form filled out by an authorized healthcare professional that states a particular individual lacks the mental ability to make certain decisions for themselves. These forms must be completed when you are seeking Adult Guardianship and/or Trusteeship.
Codicil: An attachment or supplement to a Will that explains, modifies, or revokes a Will or part of a Will. This is a way to reduce expenses for a Testator that wishes to amend one portion of the Will, but does not wish to draft a whole new Will.
Discretionary Trust or “Henson Trust”–A trust created within a Will that provides the Trustee with absolute discretion on how the individual who is to benefit from the trust (beneficiary) will receive funds. Currently, a Discretionary Trusts can ensure an AISH recipient continues to enjoy their AISH benefits.
Estate –Within the Wills & Estates context, an Estate refers to all the assets of a deceased individual that are not owned jointly or do not have a named beneficiary. This includes land, property, personal belongings, bank accounts, vehicles, and anything else owned solely by the deceased person at time of death.
Executor –An Executor, also known as a “Personal Representative”, is the person that is responsible for administering the Estate of a deceased individual. A Testator typically appoints an Executor through their Will. An Executor’s duties include, but are not limited to, locating, gathering, and distributing a deceased person’s property, as well as closing bank accounts, providing notice to credits, and, if necessary, applying for a Grant of Probate or a Grant of Administration.
Formal Will – A will that is signed by the Testator and two witnesses. These two witnesses must be present while the Testator signs the Will. It is important that the witness signing the Will is not named a beneficiary within the Will because this will void the gift provided to them within the Will.
Guardian – A person that is appointed to care for a minor child or a dependent who has lost capacity or has a disability. After the Testator passes, the guardian becomes responsibly for the care and provision of the minor child or dependent.
Gift – A particular item or a specific sum of money left to a beneficiary.
Holographic Will – As set out in the Wills & Succession Act of Alberta, a Holographic Will is a Will entirely handwritten (not typed) by the Testator, and signed by that Testator. This type of Will does not require witnesses like a formal Will does. As was the case in Saskatchewan, this type of Will can even be hand carved into the side of a tractor fender so long as it is done by the Testator and includes the Testator’s signature!
Intestate – A person who has died without a Will, or refers to not having a Will before dying.
Minor Beneficiary Trust – these trusts provide a Trustee with the power to handle a minor’s gift, typically from an estate, until they reach a certain age. These trusts can be set up to allow a Trustee to pay for the minor’s education, residence, anything else allowed within the trust until that child a predetermined age.
Personal Directive – A legal document, also known as a “living will”, that directs who will make personal and health related decisions on another’s behalf should they no longer be mentally capable of making those decisions for themselves.
Power of Attorney – A legal document that directs who will make financial decisions on another’s behalf should they no longer be mentally capable of making those decisions for themselves. This document may be “enduring”, which means it remains in effect even if the person giving the Power of Attorney is no longer mentally capable of making their own financial decisions. Often enough, the powers provided by an Enduring Power of Attorney are triggered after the person giving such powers no longer has the mental capability of making their own financial decisions.
Probate – The process that transfers the legal title of property from the estate of a deceased person to their proper beneficiary. During this process, a Will is reviewed to determine it’s validity and authenticity.
Public Guardian or Trustee – If nobody is available to assume Guardianship or Trusteeship over a particular person or their Estate, the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee can be appointed to manage an Adult’s affairs.
Residue – The Residue of the Estate is the amount remaining in Estate after taxes, debts, Executor compensation, specific bequests or gifts, legal fees, and all other fees incurred in connection with the administration of the Estate have been paid. It is important that your Will dedicate at least one residuary beneficiary within the document.
Specific Bequest – A specific bequest, also known as a specific gift, is an asset or lump sum of money provided to one or more beneficiary. By way of example, a Testator may state in their Will that they direct their Personal Representative to give their Wedding Band to their son, James Smith, for his sole use and benefit absolutely.
Testamentary Trust – A trust created within a Will that appoints a person to handle the inheritance of another person named within a Will. Typically, this trust is created for beneficiaries under a particular age or a disabled beneficiary to ensure the funds are handled properly to the benefit of that beneficiary.
Testator – a Testator is a person who writes a Will or who has asked a lawyer to prepare a Will on their behalf.
Will – a document prepared by or for a Testator that directs who will manage the Testator’s Estate, and how that Estate will be distributed after they pass. A Testator may designate Insurance and tax deferred assets beneficiaries within their Will.