By
Pace Law

Missing the Mark – Why Are 70 Percent of Canadians Without an Estate Plan?

August 29, 2023

Summary

Estate planning, essential for ensuring posthumous wishes are met, remains an area 70% of Canadians neglect. This deficiency largely stems from misconceptions, such as believing estate planning is only for the wealthy or thinking they’re too young to start. Statistics reveal younger Canadians and certain demographics, such as lower-income households, are particularly unprepared for life’s unpredictabilities. Addressing common myths, this article emphasizes that estate planning isn’t just about financial intricacies but about peace of mind and safeguarding loved ones. For Canadians yet to navigate this crucial path, the rewards of taking proactive steps are invaluable.

Table of Contents

  1. Importance of Estate Planning
  2. Current Landscape of Estate Planning in Canada
  3. Unpacking the Reasons Behind the Lack of Estate Planning
  4. Debunking Common Misconceptions About Estate Planning
  5. Overcoming Barriers to Estate Planning
  6. Examples for Lower-Income Individuals’ Wills
  7. Conclusion

Introduction

Estate planning is an essential aspect of financial management that often gets overlooked. Despite its role in ensuring one’s wishes are followed after they pass away, only 30% of Canadians have an estate plan. This article seeks to explore the reasons behind the low percentage of estate plan adoption in Canada and to provide insight into Canadians’ views on the importance of Wills and Power of Attorney (POA).

 

Importance of Estate Planning

Estate planning involves organizing your financial and personal affairs to ensure your wishes are fulfilled both during your lifetime and upon your passing. The cornerstones of a comprehensive estate plan are a Will and the Power of Attorney (POA).

A Will is a legal document detailing how your assets should be distributed upon your death. If you have minor children, a Will is where you specify their guardianship arrangements. A POA gives an individual the authority to manage your affairs if you become incapacitated. This may cover financial transactions, healthcare decisions, or both.

Without a Will, the distribution of your assets will be determined by provincial or territorial laws, which may not reflect your wishes. Additionally, without a POA, there may be no one legally authorized to make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.

70% of Canadians do not have an estate plan in place.

 

Current Landscape of Estate Planning in Canada

The National Institute on Ageing and RBC Royal Trust report that 30% of Canadians have an estate plan. Regarding Wills, 48% of Canadians have one. While 74% of Canadians aged 55 years and older have a Will, only 34% of those aged 35–54 years and 30% of those aged 18–34 years do. When it comes to POAs, 35% of Canadians have appointed one. Among Canadians aged 55 years and older, this figure is 53%, but it drops to 28% for those aged 35–54 years and 21% for those aged 18–34 years.

These statistics show that a significant number of Canadians, particularly the younger population, aren’t prepared for unexpected life events. The challenge remains in converting the understanding of estate planning into action.

 

Unpacking the Reasons Behind the Lack of Estate Planning

Several factors contribute to why a large number of Canadians have not delved into estate planning, from lack of knowledge to emotional resistance.

A notable 25% of Canadians without a Will cite uncertainty about the starting process. Similarly, of the Canadians who haven’t appointed a POA, 23% attribute this to not knowing where to begin.

Age significantly influences these decisions. A prevailing belief among younger Canadians aged 18–34 is that there’s an ideal age threshold for drafting a Will (43%) or appointing a POA (38%). Such misconceptions can deter them from timely estate planning.

Misunderstandings also abound concerning financial prerequisites. Many Canadians assume that substantial or intricate assets are requisite for an estate plan. This is particularly evident among older age groups: 29% of Canadians aged 55 and above without a Will believe their asset volume doesn’t justify one.

Emotional considerations also play a part. The inevitable reality of mortality can be a disconcerting thought for some. In fact, 8% of Canadians admit to avoiding Will drafting primarily due to their reluctance to confront death.

The reasons also demonstrate variation across gender and economic lines. Women and households with an income below $50,000 frequently cite insufficient assets and legal costs as deterrents for Will creation. In contrast, this reason is less prevalent among men and those in higher income brackets.

These insights into Canadians’ hesitations around estate planning emphasize the need for tailored guidance and resources, which will be delved into in the following section.

 

Debunking Common Misconceptions About Estate Planning

Addressing the reasons Canadians delay estate planning involves debunking prevalent misconceptions.

  1. Estate Planning is Only for the Wealthy: While many believe wills and estate planning is reserved for the wealthy, it’s a necessity for everyone, regardless of estate size. Everything you own, from personal items to bank accounts, forms your estate and requires management upon incapacitation or death.
  2. You’re Too Young to Think About Estate Planning: Many young Canadians feel they don’t need an estate plan due to their age. Yet, life’s unpredictability makes having a plan essential at any age. An estate plan ensures your wishes are followed and decisions are made on your behalf when necessary.
  3. Estate Planning is a One-Time Activity: Contrary to the belief that estate planning is a one-time event, it requires periodic reviews and updates to reflect life changes like marriages, births, and asset alterations.
  4. I Don’t Want to Think About Dying: While thinking about mortality can be unsettling, estate planning focuses on ensuring your wishes are met and loved ones are protected.
  5. I Don’t Know Where to Start: Many Canadians feel daunted starting with estate planning. Fortunately, numerous professionals and resources can guide individuals through the initial steps.

Addressing these misconceptions can demystify estate planning, prompting more Canadians to undertake this crucial task. The following section offers actionable estate planning initiation steps.

 

Overcoming Barriers to Estate Planning

Understanding the misconceptions about estate planning, we now discuss steps to navigate these hurdles.

  1. Seek Professional Advice: For those uncertain about beginning, consulting professionals in estate planning or financial advisory can simplify and clarify the process.
  2. Start Small Beginning with a simple list of assets, debts, and estate handling preferences can set the foundation for a more comprehensive plan.
  3. Address the Emotional Component: Confronting the emotional aspect of mortality is vital. Dialogues with family or even counseling can help process these feelings, focusing on the protection estate planning provides to loved ones.
  4. Encourage Conversations on Estate Planning: Promoting discussions around estate planning can challenge existing misconceptions and emphasize its importance.
  5. Regular Reviews and Updates: Life changes necessitate periodic estate plan reviews and modifications to keep them relevant and accurate.

By adopting these measures, Canadians can address the common barriers to estate planning. Beyond being a sound financial move, it ensures your wishes are honored and loved ones are safeguarded. With more Canadians embracing estate planning, the collective future becomes more secure and respectful of individual desires.

 

Examples for Lower-Income Individuals’ Wills:

Many mistakenly believe that only the wealthy need estate planning. However, everyone has items of financial or sentimental value that are worth considering in an estate plan. Here are some examples of what a lower-income individual might include in their will:

  1. Personal Belongings: These can range from jewelry, clothes, books, small electronics, tools, and other household items. Even if they’re not of significant financial value, they might hold sentimental value to specific family members or friends.
  2. Furniture: Pieces of furniture like sofas, beds, tables, chairs, or cabinets. Even if older, they might be significant to someone or could be sold or donated.
  3. Bank Accounts: Regardless of the amount, any savings or checking accounts should be mentioned, even if they only have a modest balance.
  4. Vehicles: This can include cars, motorcycles, bicycles, or any other form of personal transportation.
  5. Digital Assets: Digital photos, social media accounts, email accounts, and any other digital footprints you may leave behind. You can leave instructions on how to handle these after your death.
  6. Pets: Specify who should take care of your pets after you’re gone. Pets play a crucial role in many people’s lives, and ensuring they’re cared for is important.
  7. Sentimental Items: Handwritten letters, photo albums, personal diaries, and other memorabilia that could be of importance to loved ones.
  8. Small Investments: This can be any investments in stocks, bonds, or mutual funds, even if they’re of lesser value.
  9. Debts: Even if of modest means, it’s important to address any outstanding debts, how they should be paid, or if they are to be forgiven (like a personal loan to a family member).
  10. End-of-Life Wishes: This isn’t always about assets. Your will can specify your funeral arrangements or wishes concerning cremation, burial, or organ donation.

It’s essential to understand that a will isn’t solely about monetary value. It’s a way to ensure your wishes are met and to provide clarity to loved ones during an emotionally challenging time. Whether you have vast assets or a humble array of belongings, your will is a chance to communicate your desires and provide direction.

 

Conclusion

Estate planning, while critical for financial readiness, remains an overlooked area for a significant 70% of Canadians. Various factors contribute to this oversight, from misconceptions and uncertainties to emotional reservations surrounding the subject. Yet, its significance transcends wealth or age brackets; it’s pivotal for ensuring our wishes are met and our loved ones safeguarded.

By dispelling myths and equipping individuals with essential resources and knowledge, we can bridge this gap. Whether through professional guidance, initiating basic asset tracking, acknowledging emotional barriers, or fostering dialogues about its importance, proactive steps can be undertaken.

Estate planning is less about navigating the intricacies of finance and more about peace of mind. It ensures our desires are respected, and those dear to us are protected. For those in the majority without a plan, the journey might appear challenging initially, but the long-term rewards are profound. To those Canadians yet to embark on this journey—let’s begin.

At Pace Law Firm, our commitment to offering comprehensive estate solutions is unwavering. Our team specializes in providing meticulous wills and estates services tailored to the unique needs of our clients. From drafting wills to the intricate administration of estates, our goal is to ensure that your legacy is managed with precision and care. Below is a detailed checklist of the services we proudly offer:

  1. Wills & Estates:
    • Drafting of Primary Wills.
    • Drafting of Secondary Wills.
    • Drafting of Powers of Attorney:
      • For Property.
      • For Personal Care.
      • Specific Powers of Attorney for the Country of Lithuania.
      • Specific Powers of Attorney for the Country of Hungary.
  2. Administration of Estates:
    • Preparation of all documentation for Applications to appoint Estate Trustees, covering:
      • During litigation.
      • Testacy.
      • Intestacy.
    • Acting on the complete administration of an estate, including:
      • Preparation of releases and indemnifications to protect the estate trustee.
      • Ensuring legal distribution of monies to:
        • Residual beneficiaries named in a Will.
        • Specific bequests set out in the Will.
      • Administering the Estate based on the terms of the Will.
      • Collaboration with accountants to:
        • Prepare all requisite income tax returns for an estate.
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191 The West Mall, Suite 1100
Toronto, ON M9C 5K8
Phone: 1-877-236-3060
Fax: 416-236-1809

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