Different Legal Systems

A common question about wills is whether they will be recognized in other countries. This is difficult to answer because each country has its own unique legal system. However, some countries are more closely related than others in terms of their legal systems.

In Alberta, and throughout the rest of Canada with the exception of Quebec, the legal system is based on the English Common Law system. Countries that use some type of Common Law system are the UK, the US, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, South Africa (to some extent), India, Myanmar, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Pakistan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bahamas, Belize, Dominica, Jamaica, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and Saint Kitts and Nevis. (Please note that there may be some countries missing from this list.)

Just because a country uses a system of common law does not mean that its laws and legal system are sufficiently close to those of Alberta. A will drafted in Alberta may or may not be considered valid in one of those countries. That being said, a will drafted in Alberta stands a better chance of being valid in a common law country than in a non-common law country. To be on the safe side, it's always a good idea to check with a lawyer in the other country if you plan on moving there or if you have significant property in that country.

The other type of legal system that is used in many (I think most) countries is the civil law legal system. While it is entirely possible that a civil law jurisdiction will recognize a last will and testament drafted in Alberta, you should certainly check with a lawyer in that country to be on the safe side.