Understanding Alberta’s new digital probate process: What it means for you

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If you live in Alberta and are dealing with a loved one’s estate, it’s important to understand the recent changes to the probate process. In June 2022, Alberta introduced the Surrogate Digital Service, a web-based system that makes it easier for lawyers to handle probate applications. Here’s how it affects you and what you need to know.

What Is Probate?

Probate is the legal process of validating a Will and authorizing the personal representative to distribute the deceased’s assets. Each province in Canada has its own rules, and in Alberta, this process has just become more efficient thanks to the new digital system.

How the New System Works

  1. Digital Application: Lawyers in Alberta can now complete and submit probate applications online. They upload PDF copies of important documents like the death certificate, the Will, and any other relevant papers.
  2. Automatic Checks: The system automatically checks the forms to ensure they’re filled out correctly, which reduces the chances of rejection.
  3. Fast Notification: Once the application is accepted, the personal representative (the person named in the Will to manage the estate) is notified by email. They can review all the details online and confirm everything with a single click.
  4. Efficient Service: Beneficiaries and potential claimants are notified by email. This means faster and more reliable communication.
  5. Quick Approval: For simple estates, the whole process can take as little as 10 days. More complex estates will take longer, especially if gathering information about various assets takes time.
  6. Payment and Fees: The court fee is paid by credit card and is based on the estate’s value, up to a maximum of $525 for estates worth more than $250,000. There are no additional probate fees or estate taxes in Alberta, though there might be income tax or capital gains tax owed to Revenue Canada.
  7. Electronic Grant: Once a judge approves the application, an electronic version of the grant is sent to the lawyer and the personal representative. This document allows them to manage the deceased’s assets, pay debts, and distribute the inheritance. The Court will also provide a notice outlining the Court’s move to digital grants that can be provided to financial institutions who may be unfamiliar with this digital grant format.

Benefits of the Digital System

  • Time-Saving: The new system cuts down on the lengthy process of mailing documents and waiting for responses.
  • Convenient: Everything can be handled online, making it easier for everyone involved.
  • Cost-Effective: Reduces the need for multiple court visits and speeds up the overall process.

Special Circumstances

Some situations still require the old paper process, such as when:

  • The Will is invalid and needs a court order.
  • The deceased was under 18 when the Will was made or died.
  • The personal representative lives outside Alberta.
  • The Will is contested due to issues like undue influence, lack of capacity, or fraud.

Importance of Having a Will

This new digital service highlights the importance of having a properly executed Will. A clear and valid Will makes the probate process simpler and less stressful for your loved ones.

Bottom Line

Alberta’s Surrogate Digital Service is a significant step towards modernizing estate administration. It makes the probate process quicker, easier, and more efficient, benefiting everyone involved. If you don’t already have a Will, it’s a good idea to get one to ensure your estate is handled smoothly.

Still have questions? Reach out to our Wills and Estates team at BD&P to learn more.


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