Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, a 2019 Financial Consumer Agency of Canada study found that about half of Canadians (55 per cent) had a will. According to the study, however, only 22 per cent of Canadians under age 35 had a will in place.
The pandemic has changed that. In the face of uncertainty, more people began contemplating their estate and started taking action to ensure they were covered against all ‘what ifs.’
A 2021 Wall Street Journal article noted that 32 per cent of adults under 35 who wrote a will said it was because of the pandemic. But while the numbers of those with wills increased during the pandemic, a study called The Great Wake-Up Call shows that only 28 per cent of millennials today have a will in place.
Regardless of whether we’re in a pandemic or ‘normal times,’ it’s always important to have a comprehensive estate plan in place to address your financial and health care affairs, both in the event of sickness as well as death.
Whether you are young or old, there is a need for an estate plan. For young adults or new parents, a will allows you to nominate a guardian for minor children and direct how the estate funds should be used to raise the child. If you are older with no minor children, your focus may be different and your goals may include strategies on how to preserve and protect assets and how to minimize tax.
You should have an estate plan in place if you have family members with special needs, a common-law spouse, a blended family or a business. Advisors can help you create individualized plans that create the best scenarios for minimizing taxes and addressing specific needs.
As well as addressing the distribution of your assets at death, estate plans will include instructions for your health care and finances should you become ill or incapacitated. The scope of such accountabilities can be broad and include the filing of income tax returns, making investment decisions, paying bills, determining the standard of care you will receive, who you associate with and even make end of life decisions. As some health events can be chronic, such responsibilities can last for years.
Updating your plan
If you already have a will or estate plan in place, consider the last time you updated these important documents. Major life changes, such as a new birth, marriage, divorce, death of a spouse, death of a beneficiary, health event or a significant financial change, should be followed by a review and possible update of your estate planning documents. Once updated, you will have peace of mind in knowing that the fate of your estate and outcome for loved ones will be carried out according to your wishes.
Our ATB Wealth experts can help you navigate the task of preparing an effective estate plan for your situation.
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