Will VS Personal Directive. Do You Need Both in Alberta?

Most Albertans know the importance of having a will. But did you know that it is just as important to have a personal directive?

What is a Will?

A will in Alberta is a legal document that allows you to state how your property (estate) will be allocated after your death. In this document, you are also able to appoint a personal representative who will manage your estate and carry out any wishes included in your will after your death. You can also determine who will be the guardian of any children under the age of 18 at the time of your passing.

Your will does not take effect until you die.

There may be unique situations where you are still alive and unable to make your own decisions, such as being in a coma after a car accident or after a stroke? What do you do then? Who is responsible for making your decisions when you are unable to?

That is when a personal directive comes in.


What is a personal directive?

A personal directive is a legal document that allows you to assign someone to make decisions on your behalf in situations where you may not be able to. You appoint someone to be your agent and give this person the authority to make health care, housing, and personal decisions on your behalf.

Your personal directive only comes into effect if you lack the capacity to make your own decisions (such as when in a coma).

As you can see, a will takes effect after you die whereas a personal directive comes into effect while you are still living, but unable to make your own decisions. These decisions can greatly impact the quality of your life moving forward, such as how you spend your day, where you live, and who will take care of your children.

What if I have a Living Will?

A Living Will in Alberta provides instructions regarding end-of-life decisions, such as whether you wish to be resuscitated or to endorse the use of experimental treatments in an attempt to save your life.

Essentially, a Living Will is a legal document that addresses only one specific issue: end-of-life decisions. It does not address personal decisions that need to be made if you no longer have the mental capacity to make those decisions. That’s where a personal directive comes in.

It is not necessary to have a Living Will. Technically, in Alberta, your Personal Directive can (and should) include end-of-life decisions.

The Government of Alberta described why having a personal directive is so important in their Understanding Personal Directives document. They stated that “with a personal directive, you are not just leaving instructions regarding your death – you are creating instructions regarding your life.”

So do you need both a will and personal directive in Alberta?

Yes you do!

Each serves a different, yet very important purpose. By having both, also help minimize the stress, burden, and expenses your family members may face when you pass or are still alive, but unable to make decisions for yourself.


Planning for your future is one of the best investments you can make for yourself and your family. At McGuiness Law, we can help you with “mirrored wills,” which include a Will, Personal Directive, and Power of Attorney for each member of a couple.

Contact our team today to learn more by calling McGuiness Law at 780-900-7941.

Want to learn more about Personal Directives? Check out a few of our other blog posts such as Why you need a Personal Directive in Alberta and How To Write A Personal Directive.