Most Common Types of Wills in Alberta

Every Canadian adult should have a Will, regardless if you think your estate is large enough or not. Planning for your future is one of the best investments you can make for yourself and your family.


The three most commonly used Wills in Alberta include:

1. Holographic Wills

2. Formal Will

3. Living Wills / Personal Directive

1. Holographic Wills

Money should not hold you back from writing your own Will. If it is, consider writing a Holographic Will, which is free.

A Holographic Will is considered a legal document in Alberta and is one in which you write yourself by hand. These informal Wills are not created by a lawyer and do not require a witness. There are a few things that they must include to make it a legally binding document, such as:

Written in your own handwriting. You cannot use a computer or other electronic/mechanical device to write it.

Must include your signature at the end of the Will. We also suggest dating your Will, though this is not required.

It must be written in ink, not with a pencil.


2. Formal Wills

Hiring a lawyer comes at a cost, but remember, you are hiring a legal professional based on their expertise and knowledge. The legal requirements for a Will change regularly, which means lawyers need to stay up-to-date on these changes.

Formal Wills must be in writing and include your signature at the end of the document. They also are required to have two witnesses who have signed the Will in your presence. These people cannot be beneficiaries and must be someone other than your legal spouse.

3. Living Wills / Personal Directive

Technically, Alberta does not have Living Wills, but instead we have Personal Directives. The reason for this is because Living Wills typically only address one specific issue: end-of-life decisions, which may include whether you wish to be resuscitated or to endorse the use of experimental treatments in an attempt to save your life. It does not include personal decisions that need to be made if you no longer have the mental capacity to make those decisions.

That is why the Alberta Government encourages Albertans to write a Personal Directive. The biggest difference between a Living Will and a Personal Directive is that a personal directive comes into effect while you are still alive but unable to make your own decisions (such as when in a coma).


With a personal directive, you appoint someone to make health care, housing, and personal decisions on your behalf, and you can also indicate end-of-life wishes.

It is important to remember that your Will and personal directive are not a document that you create only once in your life. They should be seen as a living record that changes and gets updated consistently as your life and circumstances evolve.

No matter your situation, if you are an adult over the age of 18 in Alberta, you should have both a will and have a personal directive.

If you still aren’t sure where to start, give our team at McGuiness Law a call (780) 900-7941. We offer free consultations and can help you plan for your future and loved ones today.