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Personal Representatives must wrap up the estate matters in one year (the “executor’s year”).


The concept of the “executor’s year” is not law. It is only a commonly used “rule of thumb.” It is meant as an indication that a Personal Representative must act efficiently, and should not delay. For very simple estates, it may be possible to wrap up all issues in one year. Many estates take 1-2 years. More complicated estates can take many years to complete.

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Last Reviewed: May 2016
Only parents can be the guardian of a child.
I cannot lift heavy packages at work because I am pregnant. My coworkers constantly complain about this and call me a slacker, but I guess I just have to put up with it.

Not necessarily.

Human rights laws in Canada protect against discrimination on the basis of gender and family status. As a result, your employer must ensure that you do not feel unwelcome in your workplace and are not harassed because you are pregnant.

You have a right to speak to your employer about your concerns, and your employer is required to take appropriate action. Sometimes it can be difficult for an employer to figure out how to make a difference in these situations. The Alberta Human Rights Commission has education programs and consultation services to help with workplace discrimination. Either you or your employer can ask the Alberta Human Rights Commission for this help.

If your employer still will not take any action, you can make a formal complaint to the Alberta Human Rights Commission.

Last Reviewed: February 2017
A wife must take her husband’s last name after they get married.

False. In Alberta, you are not required to change your name when you get married.

However, often spouses prefer to have a matching surname (last name) and sometimes choose to change their children’s names as well.

After you get married, you can choose to keep your name, take on your spouse’s name, or create a new surname (usually by combining your surnames with a hyphen or a space). For example:

  • Jaime Smith and Alex Lee got married.
  • Their new surname could be Smith, Lee, Smith-Lee, Lee-Smith, Smith Lee, or Lee Smith.
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Last Reviewed: August 2016
I already gave evidence and testified in my partner’s criminal trial, so our family court hearing will just use the evidence I already gave.


Many people think that evidence that is given in criminal court will automatically be shared with the family court. This is not the case. The opposite is also true: evidence from family court will not automatically be included as evidence in criminal processes.

As a result, if a spouse/partner is also the victim in a criminal matter, she or he will have to give the same evidence again in the second proceeding. This means giving similar written evidence (such as affidavits) and possibly even testifying in each proceeding.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
If I want to donate my organs, I must say so in my Will.


Although we think of organ and tissue donation as a part of planning for death, if you put your request in your Will it may only become known after it is too late. As a result, if you wish to donate organs and tissue when you die, the law requires you to sign legal documents that apply while you are still alive.

Last Reviewed: April 2016
My partner and I are moving in together, and we are signing a domestic agreement to please her parents. It won’t have any real effect if we separate.


A domestic contract (a cohabitation, pre-nuptial, or marriage agreement) is an enforceable contract (assuming all the requirements of a valid contract are met). It is more than just a formality: your partner will be able to enforce it. The only way this agreement would not affect you if you separate in the future is if both you and your partner choose to not follow it, or if you can convince the court that there is a legal reason to set the agreement aside.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
Platonic (non-romantic) Adult Interdependent Partners are not entitled to partner support.


Under Alberta’s Family Law Act, platonic (non-romantic) Adult Interdependent Partners have all of the same rights as conjugal (romantic) Adult Interdependent Partners. This includes partner support.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
I can’t afford to leave my abusive relationship.

Leaving an abusive relationship is very difficult, and this includes financially difficult. There are different supports and services available for people suffering from family violence. Every person’s situation is different. Therefore, each person might need different kinds of help. For example, someone who needs financial help might not need to find a shelter if they have another safe place where they can go. 

A shelter is a safe place where victims of domestic violence can go to live on a temporary basis. There are many different shelters throughout the province available to people who need protection because of family violence. Certain shelters may only be for women, for women and children, or for men. There are even shelters for seniors who are being abused.

If you need financial help, Alberta Works may be able to help. Alberta Works is a service that provides help to people in different areas, including employment services, income support, and health benefits services. For example, Alberta Works might be able to help unemployed people find jobs, or help low-income people pay for certain costs, such as food and shelter.

Alberta Works even has a specific program that provides financial help to people who are leaving an abusive relationship and cannot afford basic necessities like shelter and clothing. However, there are certain eligibility criteria that you must meet in order to get financial help from Alberta Works. To determine whether you are eligible for financial help from Alberta Works, contact a centre near you.

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Last Reviewed: October 2015
Being “common-law” and being in an “Adult Interdependent Relationship” is the same thing.


For many people, the term “common-law” is used to describe a couple that have been living together in a romantic relationship but are not married. In many provinces, and for income tax purposes, people are “common-law” after living together for one year. In some provinces, the required time is two years.

Alberta has stopped using the term “common-law” and instead uses the term “Adult Interdependent Relationship” (AIR). The concept of an AIR can also refer to certain relationships that are not romantic.

A person is in an Adult Interdependent Relationship if he or she has been living with and in a “relationship of interdependence” with another person:

  • for 3 years; or
  • for less than 3 years if they have signed an Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement; or
  • for less than 3 years if they have a child together (by birth or adoption).

A “relationship of interdependence” is a relationship where the partners:

  • share one another’s lives;
  • are emotionally committed to one another; and
  • function as an economic and domestic unit.
Last Reviewed: October 2015
If I contact any law society, they can recommend a good lawyer for me.


Law Society referral services only list lawyers who are “in good standing.” This means that they have paid their fees and are allowed to practice law in that jurisdiction. They do not tell you anything about the lawyer’s skill or work style. Also, some private referral services are really just advertisements that the lawyer paid for.

Before hiring any lawyer, you should do your research about them and make sure you can work well together.

Last Reviewed: August 2016
My partner gave me a pre-nuptial agreement to sign. I don’t like the agreement, but I feel like I should sign it because otherwise I won’t have any protection if we separate.

Not necessarily.

If you separate after you are married, the law will give you some protection even if you do not have a pre-nuptial agreement. As a married person, you will have rights and responsibilities under the Divorce Act and Matrimonial Property Act in addition to the Family Law Act (which is available to both married and unmarried people). In these laws, there are provisions for child support, spousal support, and property division. If you don’t have a pre-nuptial agreement, these laws will govern your separation.

However, if you are not yet married when you separate, then you will not have access to the Divorce Act or the Matrimonial Property Act. Depending on your legal status under the law, you may have certain rights and responsibilities under the Family Law Act that will govern your separation (but those will not include any rights about property division).

In addition, even if you do sign a pre-nuptial agreement, it will not take effect until you are married. So if you separate before you are married, the terms of your pre-nuptial agreement will not govern your separation.

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Last Reviewed: October 2015
Once I have made an embryo, I am free to use it however I want.


You must have the necessary consent to use the embryo for that particular purpose. Depending on your situation, the people you need consent from may change. For example:

  • If you made the embryo with your current partner, you must have their consent to use the embryo.
  • If a donor only gave you their consent to make a baby with their reproductive materials, you cannot donate the embryo for research without first getting the donor’s specific consent.
Last Reviewed: March 2017
I earned my pension from my work. It is mine and does not have to be shared with my former spouse.


Under the Matrimonial Property Act, a pension is considered property that is subject to division if you separate from your spouse. The right to the pension grew larger during the marriage, and the pension was intended to become part of the marriage. Just as you would bring your income into the marriage and family for things such as rent, mortgage, car payments, furniture, and groceries, so too was the pension intended to be for the family (just as an RRSP would be).

This does not mean that all of your pension is necessarily divisible—like any other piece of matrimonial property, it relates to the period of your marriage. Most work pension division laws describe the part of the pension that may be divided as “the pension benefit earned during the marriage” (also called the “period of joint accrual”).

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Last Reviewed: October 2015
My spouse and I got back together for a few weeks during our separation, so now we have to wait an extra year before we can get divorced.


You and your spouse can get back together for up to 90 days without having to start counting the one-year separation period again.

On the other hand, if you get back together for longer than 90 days, you would have to start counting the one-year separation period over again, and you would have to wait another 12 months from the start date of the last separation before being granted a divorce.

Last Reviewed: October 2015