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Archive for Alberta law

Donating Organs in Alberta

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

When preparing personal directives for clients, I always ask whether they are interested in being organ donors. While not for everyone, being an organ donor means that you are willing to give a very special gift to someone you have never met. You can be certain that this gift will either save a person’s life or significantly improve a person’s life. In some cases, a single donor can save or improve several lives at once.


A very positive development in recent months is the Alberta Government’s creation on an organ and tissue donor registry. There are two ways that a person can register as an organ and tissue donor. The first way is to indicate your preference to be a donor when you go to renew your driver’s licence at an Alberta Registries office. The second way to register is to Google something like Alberta organ donor registry. Likely the first thing to come up will be the Alberta organ and tissue donation registry page. All you’ll need is your Alberta Health number. Once you have completed the online form a PDF documented will be generated. You will then print this off, sign it with a witness (no need for notarization), and mail it in to the Alberta Health address listed on the document. That’s it. That’s all you have to do to save lives.


The online form asks some specific questions about your preferences. Probably the most common preference is to donate all available organs and tissues for the purposes of transplantation. Some people may wish to only donate certain organs or tissues, and you can indicate those preferences on the form.


Other people may even wish to donate their bodies for scientific research or to assist with the education of medical students. You can indicate those preferences as well. That being said, if you wish to leave your body for scientific research or medical education, you should also contact either the University of Calgary body donation program or the University of Alberta anatomical gifts program. I have been advised by a representative of the University of Calgary program that they have other forms for would-be donors to fill out that are in addition to the Alberta Government’s online donor registry form.


If you would like to donate your organs and tissues, visit:


If you are interested in donating your body to the University of Calgary body donation program, please visit:


If you are interested in donating your body to the University of Alberta anatomical gifts program, please visit:


Some jurisdictions allow for joint wills. However, my practice is to prepare two wills, one for each spouse. I think joint wills have too many drawbacks. In particular, a husband and wife’s wishes are not always in line. For example, the husband may wish for one of his siblings to be his alternate executor, and the wife may wish for one of her siblings to be her alternate executor. In all likelihood, one spouse will predecease the other, rather than both dying at the same time. Since a joint will may be probated for the spouse who dies first, the second spouse would then likely have to do another will anyway.


Yes, purchasing US property may subject you to US estate tax. Also, if you live in the US for a significant period of time or acquire US citizenship, you may be subject to US estate tax. I would recommend speaking with a US tax lawyer before you consider purchasing US property, living in the US, or applying for US citizenship.


It is a good idea to have a clause in your will that is sometimes morbidly referred to as a “wipe-out clause”. A wipe-out clause stipulates beneficiaries in the event that your immediate family members have all died. Typically, a wipe-out clause will leave assets to parents, siblings, and/or nieces and nephews. In some cases, wipe-out clauses will leave assets to friends or charities.


In such a circumstance, the rules that would apply to a person who died intestate (without a will) would apply. There are likely surviving family members who are still eligible to receive assets under intestate succession legislation, even if these people are distant relatives.

Calgary Lawyer | Russ Weininger


You can certainly indicate such wishes in your will. However, there are a couple things to consider. You should make sure that your funeral wishes aren’t so lavish that it bankrupts your estate. The other thing to consider is that a will may not be carefully read until after you are dead and buried. For this reason, I suggest making your funeral wishes known to family members prior to your death.

When a will is probated, it becomes a document of public record that potentially anyone, including the media, may have access to. You should keep this in mind, if you are saying things that you would not wish to be made public. As well, you should consider the long term effects that your words may have on your friends and family members. In some cases, negative comments may actually encourage others to challenge the validity of your will, whether or not there is any legal merit to such a challenge. This may have the effect of making things difficult for your executor and may deprive your beneficiaries of what would otherwise be their rightful inheritance.

That depends on whether the beneficiary is found guilty of your murder. If the beneficiary gets away with your murder, he or she may still benefit from your estate. If the beneficiary is found guilty of your murder, he or she is not legally allowed to profit from the crime.