Young Canadians embrace will-making in Covid times

The Covid pandemic seems to have spurred young Canadian adults into action when it comes to their estate plans.  

A recent survey found that more people in this country have wills in place compared with five years ago, a result that is probably influenced by the ongoing public health crisis, and the sobering reminder it has provided to all of us about our own mortality. 

But the growth was most spectacular among the very youngest group of respondents: those between 18-24 years old. Starting from an admittedly low base, the survey found that the proportion of adults in this age bracket with a will almost doubled from 13 per cent to 24 per cent. I’m hopeful that the percentage will keep rising in the future. 

“I’m too young” is one of the most frequent excuses I hear from people who are skeptical about the need for an estate plan, along with: “I don’t own anything of value.”    

But the truth is that you don’t actually need much personal property to make having a will worthwhile, and your loved ones will certainly thank you for having something in writing about your estate and its disposal, should the worst ever happen. 

Even when their possessions are of more sentimental than monetary value, many people take comfort knowing that they are the ones controlling where the property ends up after they’re gone. 

It’s certainly better than the alternative: intestacy. When someone dies without a will, it’s down to the government who gets what, thanks to Ontario’s Succession Law Reform Act, which sets strict rules for the distribution of assets in cases where the deceased left no will. 

If you have a spouse, the SLRA provides for them to get the first $350,000 from your estate, while the remainder is divided between the spouse and any surviving children. 

But there’s no accounting in the Act for individual circumstances, which can lead to issues among the deceased’s surviving relatives. 

Taking the plunge and actually drafting a will is the biggest step young adults can take towards creating a successful estate plan. It provides the perfect base to work from and adjust as needed as they move through life’s landmark moments: buying a house, marriage, the birth of their first child. 

These milestones are a great time to revisit your choices and make sure that the beneficiaries and trustees you named still make sense after the passage of some time. 

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