For many people, talking about their wills (or lack thereof) is a scary proposition. It can feel very close to our fears about death and dying and very often, people avoid the topic altogether. However, making a will is about planning for the future. It’s about taking care of loved ones. It’s about making sure your wishes and good intentions are preserved and documented, ‘just in case’. Think of it like insurance – we don’t have the same fears around buying insurance although we all realize we need it, ‘just in case’. We buy insurance, ‘just in case’. It’s part of our good planning. It’s part of thinking about our loved ones. It’s taking care. Writing our wills isn’t much different.
So how to dispel some of those long held beliefs about wills that help foster fear? We’re uncovering some of those myths to support you and your loved ones to rethink will making as both life affirming and life planning.
Myth #1️⃣: Only seniors and those who have a terminal illness make wills.
Adults of all ages and life circumstances make wills. Writing your will should be considered essential life planning like buying insurance, setting up and contributing to RRSPs, and similar. Think of writing your will as a check up of your estate, family, and financial well being. No matter your health status or age, you want to keep tabs on what you have, who you have responsibilities to, and how things will be managed when you’re gone. What will happen to your social media accounts? Who will take care of your pets? What you’re solely responsible for needs to be considered, too. It’s your ‘just in case’ planning just like many other things that you do in life as an adult, no matter how young or how old you are.
Myth #2️⃣: Writing a will is time consuming and expensive.
Once you have it organized, it’s easy to check up and make amendments as things change in your life. So while the first time may require a small investment of time and money, reviews and updates can be fairly inexpensive and don’t need to be made until there’s a big change. Writing your will can be a one and done for many people. It’s also not as time consuming as you may think. The more complex your estate is, the more time you will likely spend. There is also balancing your ability to organize some things yourself (a more DIY approach) and finding an estate planner to do the rest vs choosing the convenience of a professional doing the bulk of the work for you. The simpler your estate is, the less time and money you’ll be spending. And most of us have fairly simple assets – maybe a home with a mortgage, some insurance, RRSPs, an online identity, and investments. The responsibilities may take a bit more time – young children, pets, and dependent loved ones may need a little more planning. You can also shop around for professional we like and can help us draw up a will that takes care of loved ones and ensures our plans are documented in a way that makes the best sense for us and the ones we may be leaving behind.
Myth #3️⃣: Giving it all away before you die avoids the tax.
What is that saying? ‘There are only 2 things certain in this world: death and taxes’. While we happen to think there are other, more joyful certainties in life, you can’t avoid these 2 things. If you find a way that’s legal, please let us know! In the meantime, giving it all away doesn’t leave you much to support you in what you hope will be a grand old age. Health care costs tend to go up, the older we get. We may need to move to a place without stairs or a home that doesn’t require as much maintenance or perhaps hire help to do basic things. Even if you are perfectly healthy, you still need a home to live in and savings to cover unexpected costs. Giving it all away to loved ones, even on the promise that they will care for you when you need it, is not the best or most secure strategy. There are certainly ways to offset taxes and reduce them on your estate which a will can help you do while providing loved ones with financial support. And taxes aren’t all bad. They do pay for things that we all rely on in a cooperative and caring society, too. So paying a little tax, ensuring your needs to met throughout your life, and writing a will, is probably the better planning strategy.
Myth #4️⃣: I don’t have to write a will because I don’t really care about leaving any money to anyone.
Sometimes, family estrangements or conflicts with loved ones can make us feel like there isn’t anyone we want to leave our money to. Or there aren’t a lot of people we’re close enough to, to want to gift them any portion of our estate. However, when you die without a will, your estate doesn’t all go to the government. There are taxes to be collected, of course. However, any heirs that could have a legal claim may result in legal fees and costs to your estate you never intended or expected. You may not be around to care but is that the legacy you want to leave behind? Even if you decide not to leave money to your loved ones, you can reduce the tax burden on your estate AND give to causes that you care most about or perhaps the organizations that helped you in your life at some point. You planned for your life and this is a part of that planning. You don’t have to give your money to people you don’t want to give it but plan for your hard work to contribute to things you do care about. And, in this case, your will may likely be one of the simplest documents to write!
Myth #5️⃣: Only wealthy people need a will.
Life planning is not just about how much money you have in the bank. You may have different plans or plan differently depending on what assets you hold. And the more money and assets you have may make will writing a little more complicated. But everyone needs a will to manage that which they are responsible for in life, too. You don’t have to be wealthy to have children, own a pet, have a social media presence or online identity, or many other responsibilities that adults tend to take on or maintain. Most likely, it will be the people who are grieving for us that will need to manage the life we’ve left behind. By writing a will, you’re trying to make this process easier on them, so they know your wishes and don’t have to guess. You’re giving them a road map they can follow when they’re struggling over your loss. It may be your very last gift to them and it’s an important one.
More than 40% of Canadians have a will. You can be one of them. This doesn’t have to be a fearful thing; just treat writing your will as any of your other life planning. You will have peace of mind in this life. Your loved ones will appreciate it. Your wishes can be honoured.
How to get started? This is Write a Will Week (Oct 1-7) and there are great resources to be found and free events to attend to help you. If you don’t already have a professional to work with or have no idea how to even begin, we like this page that is specific to BC residents.