Estate planning is one of the most common areas of law you might encounter in your legal career. If you would like to pursue legal administrative assisting, the right training program can teach you everything you need to know to excel in this field. In fact, as you complete your legal assistant studies, you’ll take an entire course on wills and estates.
When you’re hired by a law office in your community, part of your work will involve interacting with clients. As a legal administrative assistant, you might receive a variety of questions from clients about what will happen to their affairs after they have passed away, and how they can be managed in ways that have the least impact on their families. While legal assistants can’t counsel clients or provide them with legal advice, they can forward these questions to a lawyer, or help a lawyer conduct some research if the question demands a more in-depth response.
What are some of the questions you might encounter? Here are three you may hear throughout your training and legal career.
How Is a Will Used After Someone Dies?
Although most people understand that they need wills, many do not truly understand what wills are and how they’re used. As you study to become a legal assistant, you may learn about the protocols and documents involved in wills.
A will is a written document that expresses a person’s wishes for how their estate should be dealt with following their death. In the will the client names an executor, who is in charge of gathering up all the assets of the estate, paying any debts that the person has, and distributing the estate according to the terms of the will.
Professionals with a legal career such as legal administrative assistants help to register wills with the appropriate government bodies. Once legally valid, a will can then be used to ensure that a person’s official wishes (regarding their property, debts, and the care of any children) are respected and carried out after their death.
Clients Often Ask Lawyers: Can a Will Ever Be Changed?
It’s important to note that wills can be changed at any time before death, and even after death if those affected by the changes sign off on them. In fact, it’s important for your future clients to know that wills should be changed often in order to best represent their wishes regarding their estate throughout their lives. Important life events like weddings, divorces, and the birth of children can all be times when clients may wish to—and have every right to—change their wills.
A will’s executor can even be relieved of their duties by court order, or choose not to be the executor if they haven’t yet dealt with any parts of the estate. These changes all involve the signing of deeds and documents that legal administrative assistants help to manage.
What if Someone Dies Without a Will?
It’s not uncommon for a person to die before completing their will, or without ever having written one. The Canadian justice system has developed ways of handling estates on behalf of the deceased. In legal assistant training, you might learn about these kinds of protocols and how they apply to people in your community.
In Alberta, the province’s Wills and Succession Act sets out how citizens’ estates will be distributed and who will inherit from them. Generally, the family of the deceased is given priority by the government. On behalf of clients without family members available to handle their estates, legal assistants and the lawyers they work for can also write to Alberta’s Office of the Public Trustee, which handles such cases.
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