Personal Directives

A personal directive is an extremely important component of a complete estate plan. If you have a will but lack a personal directive, you are only partway towards protecting yourself and your loved ones.

In other jurisdictions, a personal directive may be referred to as a "living will". In Alberta, personal directives are based on legislation, with the relevant legislation being the Personal Directives Act. The purpose of this document is to choose one or more representatives who will make decisions for you of a personal or medical nature in the event that you become mentally incompetent. The personal directive may also provide the representative with guidance or instructions as to your wishes. For example, a personal directive often indicates (to some degree) what a person's wishes are in regards to life saving measures and life support under particular circumstances.

A personal directive may also indicate whether a person wishes to donate his or her organs and tissues (or entire body, for that matter) for various purposes, such as transplantation, research, and medical education. Those in Alberta wishing to donate organs and/or tissues to be transplanted should also consider registering with the Alberta Organ and Tissue Donation Registry either online or through an Alberta Registries office. It should be noted that the Alberta Government is taking steps to make Alberta an opt-out jurisdiction with regard to organ donation. That means that, in the future, you'll have to opt out as an organ donor if you don't want to donate your organs. Anyone (in Calgary) wishing to donate his or her body for scientific or educational purposes should consider contacting the University of Calgary Body Donation Program.

In some situations, a mentally incompetent person without a personal directive may have decisions made by the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee. While representation by the OPGT is often better than nothing, most people would want to choose in advance the people who would ultimately end up making personal decisions for them.