How to Probate a Will in Alberta

The process for probating a will isn’t something most people think about until they have to. But when a loved one dies, you may wonder what the probate process is, how long it takes and how much it costs. Let’s walk through what you need to know to probate a will in Alberta. 


What Does it Mean to Probate a Will?

Probate is the legal term for the process of reviewing a will to determine whether it’s valid and authentic. The probate process includes determining the value of the person’s assets and what bills and taxes need to be paid. It also includes administering the estate of a deceased person and ensuring that it’s done by the terms of their will, if they have one. 


What’s Included in the Probate Process?

The probate process includes five general steps, all of which may not be required in all cases:

  1. Gather all documents
  2. Apply for probate
  3. Deal with potential problems – revise documents & reapply (if needed) 
  4. Obtain a Clearance Certificate (if required by the CRA)
  5. Execute the will

Depending on the complexity of the estate and if any issues arise, the application and revision stages may take multiple attempts before the application is approved.


How Long Does it Take to Probate a Will in Alberta, Specifically Calgary? 

How long it will take to probate a will varies depending on the complexity of the estate. If an estate is small, there are few beneficiaries, and no or few debts to pay, the process will be faster. If the estate is large and complicated, there are many beneficiaries and creditors, and if there are any issues with documents, probating a will could take longer. 

Here’s what can slow down the process at each step:


Gathering documents

Depending on how large the estate is, gathering documents can be long or short. The executor will need to review all documents for accuracy and ensure that everything is included. This includes taking stock of all assets—monetary or physical, which can be substantial for some estates.


Applying for probate

Smaller districts may be quicker to get approved, but in a large district like Calgary, it takes anywhere from 4 to 9 weeks to review the application, depending on how busy the courts are at the time.


Dealing with potential problems

If there are inaccuracies or incomplete information that cause the application to get rejected, additional time will need to be spent fixing the issues and reapplying. Then the waiting starts all over again. This could happen several times if the documents continue to be incomplete or inaccurate. Working with an experienced probate lawyer and an estate planning lawyer will reduce the likelihood of rejection.


Obtaining a Clearance Certificate

The Canada Revenue Agency may require a Clearance Certificate even after the application is approved before assets can be distributed. It can take anywhere from a few months to over a year to receive the certificate.


Executing the will

This is the final step. Executing a will includes paying all creditors and distributing assets to beneficiaries. Depending on the complexity and size of the will and how many beneficiaries and creditors, this process can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months. Creditors will need to be paid first so beneficiaries will have to wait till all creditors have been before they can receive any assets.


What You Need to Probate a Will

The executor will need to take stock of all assets and liabilities of the deceased in order to apply for probate. 

Assets: The list of assets can include everything the deceased owned, such as cash, investments, retirement accounts (RRSPs, CPP, TFSAs, etc.), bank accounts, physical items such as cars or other vehicles, jewellery, furniture, family heirlooms, real estate, insurance policies, stocks or other business investments.

Liabilities: The executor will also need to determine what the deceased owed to others. Yes, most debts are still owed even after a person dies. This may include debts such as credit cards, a mortgage, bills for utilities or other services, medical bills, and any outstanding loans.


Cost for Probating a Will

Fees for probating a will can vary. If you go it alone, you may think you’re saving money, but the time and related costs associated with issues on an application can add up and cause a lot of headaches. Hiring a lawyer will be an added cost but is highly recommended to help make the probate process run smoothly. The full cost will depend on the size of the estate and typically includes lawyer fees, application fees, and court filing fees, as well as GST. You will want to consider working with a law firm that’s upfront about their fees for probating a will so you know your costs ahead of time. 


Get Help With the Probate Process from a Lawyer You Can Trust

It’s important to work with a probate lawyer that will be there to guide you through the probate process during this difficult time. Contact us for a free consultation to discuss your situation.