Estate Planning

12 consequences if you die without a will

There are some very important considerations before thinking that you do not need a will. Take a moment to consider these 12 consequences of dying without a will.

  1. Without a will, you do not have an executor. Therefore, someone must be appointed to act as an administrator of your estate. This means potential delay, expense, frustration, and even loss. (Related article: Choosing the right executor)
  2. There is no opportunity to select guardians for any minor children you may have. This means that the Public Guardian (the government) may be involved in your children’s personal lives. Any parent knows how important it is to make sure that your children are in the hands of someone you want.
  3. There is no opportunity to provide for burial preferences. In a study by Lawpro, more than half of Canadians (56%) do not have a will. Coincidentally, 60% do not have any funeral arrangements. Do you know what your loved ones want for their burial preferences? It’s a tough topic to discuss so outlining your preferences in your will may be the perfect solution.
  4. Your children may not receive the amount you wanted them to receive and there is no opportunity to provide a trust for them. This means that when they reach the age of majority (which is 18 in Alberta) they receive all of the funds whether or not you have chosen that option at that point in their lives. (Related article: Understanding the power of trusts)
  5. The Public Trustee is involved in the administration of your children’s share if they are minors. This means the government will decide your child’s financial future. The government will also take a portion of your estate, as their fee.
  6. Certain assets that you may have wanted to be kept for your family’s security or for investment purposes may have to be sold. Make sure the estate is properly funded. Life insurance can be a great method to inject liquid funds into the estate.
  7. In the event of a common disaster (where your whole immediate family passes away), your estate may go to a relative that you may have never spoken to, or don’t even like. Instead, you may make provisions to create a legacy through charitable gifting.
  8. Common law relationships or same sex relationships are not recognized under the Intestate Succession Act. This means that your significant other may not receive anything from your estate upon your death.
  9. You are unable to take advantage of tax savings and save money on lawyers and court costs following your death. I’m always amazed at how little a will costs to set up in comparison to how much legal fees can cost when there are problems with an estate.
  10. Do you want your estate to go to your grandchildren if their parents predecease you? Only a will can properly indicate what is to happen in the event a family member dies.
  11. A family business or heirloom may not be able to stay in your family, and it may be necessary to liquidate the assets. When there is something of significant value like a business, it is so important to plan ahead to avoid potential conflicts. (Related article: Six unconventional estate planning tips)
  12. Ultimately, without a will, you are unable to exclude or include beneficiaries. You must depend on the law and the government to decide the economic fate of your family and loved ones.

So, here are twelve potential problems that can occur if you do not have a will. Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list. The bottom line is you can avoid a lot of these potential problems if you simply plan ahead. A will is the most critical, but often neglected part of a sound estate plan. What’s surprising is that the rewards from preparing a will are many, and tremendously valuable. So why do so many of us put it off? Hopefully with a little awareness those of you who do not have a will, will start thinking about getting one.


  1. Harry

    Brilliant! Thanks for the most helpful information. I am shopping around for a lawyer.

  2. Alex - Puertas en Block

    I think it’s logical that we should do. The question that may arise, or that arises is when we all must.
    Do not know much about this subject because it is something that usually do not think.
    That’s my personal dilemma: When?

    Thanks and greetings to all!

  3. Maureen Wickham

    Excellent article, especially with the changes in the probate process that came into effect January 1/13 involving the Minister of Finance.

  4. Andy Harrison

    If I were to die, I would for sure have some kind of will done up. You are right that if you don’t have a will, there can be quite a few problems that could occur. I’d for sure want to have some kind of burial preference, which would be in my will. Even though that day probably won’t come for a while, I’ll be sure to be prepared.

  5. Tim Hagan

    You can get a custom, personalized Will for only $39.95 at!

  6. Richard

    Great article. We had been putting off doing our wills for quite sometime until we realized that we were putting our family at risk. We ended up using an online site to do ours. Glad we’ve gotten that out of the way…

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