A recent Angus Reid Institute poll revealed that half of Canadians do not have a last will and testament — 50% of men and 51% of women. Not surprisingly, age plays a major factor. The percentage numbers of those without a will were:
- 84% of respondents aged 18 to 24
- 77% of respondents aged 25 to 34
- 69% of respondents aged 35 to 44
- 49% of respondents aged 45 to 54
- 34% of respondents aged 55 to 64
- 13% of respondents aged 65 and over
Within each age group, from eight to 18% say they have a will, but admit to it being out of date. Those in Manitoba and Saskatchewan were least likely to say theirs was properly up to date.
Another interesting find from the poll is lower-income Canadians were less likely to have a will, with a lack of assets to worry about being the main reason. Families with household incomes of less than $100,000 were twice as likely to not have a will than families with incomes above $100,000. One in six said they didn’t have enough assets to require a will.
Even if you don’t think you have anything to give away upon your death, the importance of having a proper will and testament in place cannot be overstated. It can be uncomfortable to have to face our own mortality, but a last will and testament is the very best way to avoid conflict upon your death and ensure the smooth closure of your estate.
What happens if you die without a will?
Passing away without a last will and testament in Canada is called dying “intestate.” In Alberta, the Estate Administration Act lists the people who are able to apply for a grant of administration over the estate of the person who died. The person who receives the grant is then the deceased person’s personal representative. Quite often, this is their spouse or their adult interdependent partner. With the absence of those, the personal representative may be an adult child or the deceased person’s attorney, trustee, guardian and others.
All of your assets, debts, and money will be put into an estate and the personal representative will close all of your affairs. This is done in accordance with the laws of each province, which are very different. If you are without a will in Alberta, generally the entire estate will go to the spouse or the adult interdependent partner. Again, with the absence of those persons, the personal representative can distribute the property of the estate among those entitled as determined by law.
Drafting a will
Twenty-four percent of Canadians think they are too young to need a will, while 26% of Canadians over the age of 54 think it’s too costly to have one drafted.
There are many helpful, low-cost (or even free) online tools to help you create your will, but we recommend the expert assistance of a wills and estates attorney when it comes to taking care of your property and your loved ones upon your death.
Be transparent with those involved about the contents of your will, especially your executor. They should know ahead of time the contents of your will and exactly how you would like your assets dispersed. They should also know where all of your important documents are, such as your birth certificate, Social Insurance Number, passport, trusts, financial statements, insurance policies, mortgage documents, any other legal documents, and, of course, a copy of your will. Apprise them of your Personal Directive wishes and whether any Powers of Attorney exist.
Additional steps to take to prepare for your death include:
- Planning your arrangements, such as whether you would like to be cremated or buried and whether you would like a formal funeral or a celebration of life. Be very detailed. Determine where (or if) you would like your ashes scattered, what music you would like played at your service, what food you would like served, and so on.
- Taking care of your digital presence. Designate someone to shut down all of your accounts, such as your social media, websites, email, memberships, etc. This can save major headaches while also keeping you and yours safe from cybercriminals who look to take advantage of those in vulnerable situations.
Everyone also needs life insurance
If you have assets, you should have life insurance. When you die, life insurance will help pay for immediate expenses such as funeral costs and outstanding debt, and you can also design your policy so that the remaining balance goes to someone or something you care about.
The two main types of life insurance in Canada are permanent and term. Permanent life insurance policies are purchased for an indefinite period of time and come with a cash value, providing your beneficiaries with a tax-free payment when you pass away. Quite often, people are covered through their place of work and monthly payments come directly out of their paycheques. If this is not the case for you, insurance brokerages such as us at Lane’s are able to offer a range of whole and universal life insurance policies and those that do not require medical exams.
Term life insurance is less common. Coverage provides a death benefit if the insured dies within a specific “term” (usually 10 or 20 years), and/or before a certain age (such as 65 years old). If the person covered doesn’t die within the term or by the determined age, benefits are not paid out. There is no cash value to a term insurance policy, making it more of an option for additional coverage, not as sole coverage. Term life insurance usually can be converted to permanent life insurance at any time.
Contact Lane’s for all your insurance needs
Lane’s Insurance is a leading Alberta-based brokerage providing a comprehensive range of competitively priced personal, home and business insurance products offered through the province’s top carriers. Contact at our Calgary, Edmonton, Banff and greater Alberta offices.