I am not sure why, but whenever I talk to my friends about the benefits of having a Will, they seem to dismiss the advice, thinking that Wills are only meant for old people. I was thus delighted to come across this article which highlights millennial-centric reasons for having a Will, some of which are as follows:
Digital Assets – while many millennials attest to not being flush with cash, many are flush with digital assets. I have previously written about my digital presence, admitting that I have two personal e-mail addresses, four social media accounts, and so many points through reward programs such as Aeroplan, Indigo, Greenhouse Juice – the list goes on and on. These assets carry both a financial and personal value. Millennials preparing a Will should think about how they wish to transfer these assets.
Young Children – if a child is a minor, under the Children’s Law Reform Act, it is possible for a testator to appoint one or more persons to have custody of that child in a Will. It is also possible to set up a trust in the Will to ensure that the child’s inheritance is spent responsibly. I often tell people that in making a Will, do not think of it as being done to benefit oneself (i.e. the testator), but to benefit and help your loved ones. Being able to take care of minor children is a great example of this.
Pets Pets Pets – without engaging in the dog vs cat debate, it is suffice to say that many millennials have pets. In fact, millennials these days are opting for pets over parenthood – just walk through Trinity Belwoods Park on a Saturday afternoon. In Ontario, pets are considered property, and thus require specific estate planning. Some options include leaving a cash legacy to a pet guardian or setting up a trust for a pet guardian, both of which can be accomplished in a Will.
Hoping that my millennial friends now agree that Wills aren’t just for old people!
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Traditionally, the transition from adolescence into formal adulthood has been marked by certain milestones: moving in with one’s partner, engagements, weddings, and the first purchase of a car or house, for example.
Today, however, as Dr. Steven Mintz notes in this Psychology Today article on modern adulthood, the journey to achieving adult status is “far slower and much less uniform” than it was in previous generations.
The Canadian Encyclopedia reports that in recent years, the average age of first marriage in Canada is close to 30 years old for women, and 32 years old for men. This contrasts sharply with the 1960s and 1970s, when young people in Canada were more likely to marry between the ages of 23 and 25 years old.
Similarly, while the average young adult in the sixties could expect to achieve such “emblems of adulthood” as home ownership, marriage, children, and a stable job by around the age of 24, far fewer young adults in the 2000s will have attained these markers by this same period. According to Statistics Canada, 54% of men and 43.4% of women in Canada have never married by their early thirties. In Mintz’s article, he notes that rates of childbearing, homeownership, and even car ownership for young adults have also distinctly declined from those of past generations.
Notably, many of the traditional adulthood markers relate to asset accumulation – whether it’s the paycheque associated with a steady and lucrative job, or an investment in a home or vehicle, for example. With fewer millennials travelling down these conventional paths to adulthood, and arguably having fewer assets to their names, should today’s young adults be concerned with formulating a plan for their Estate?
In my view, the answer is yes. This blog will address three of many reasons to set up an Estate Plan as a young adult today.
- Your assets can be distributed to the beneficiaries of your choice, instead of being determined by Intestacy
In Ontario, Part II of the Succession Law Reform Act (the “SLRA”) governs how one’s assets will be divided if a person dies “intestate” – namely, without a Last Will.
As many young millennial adults are unmarried and without children, I will focus on subsections 47(3)-(11) of the SLRA. These subsections delineate how an estate will be divided if one dies without a will and has neither a spouse nor children (notably, common law spouses are not included as a “spouse” on intestacy). These rules can be summarized as follows:
- If the Deceased has no spouse and no issue, the estate goes to the Deceased’s surviving parents, equally.
- If there are no surviving parents, the estate goes to the Deceased’s siblings equally (and if a sibling has predeceased, that sibling’s share goes to their respective children).
- If there are no siblings, the estate goes to the Deceased’s nephews and nieces equally.
- If there are no nephews or nieces, it goes to the next of kin of equal degree of consanguinity – in some cases, distant relatives can end up inheriting from the estate, despite otherwise having no relationship with the Deceased.
- If there are no next of kin, the estate escheats to the Crown.
Making an estate plan empowers a party to decide specifically to whom their assets – of both financial and sentimental value – will go.
Importantly, and as we have blogged on previously, any unpaid debts of the Deceased, in addition to the expenses and liabilities of the estate (e.g. funeral expenses, taxes, legal fees, etc.), are a first charge on the assets of the estate, and must be paid by the estate before assets will be distributed to beneficiaries.
- You can choose who will manage your assets, limited or not
By way of a Last Will and Testament, one can appoint an Estate Trustee (or Estate Trustees) of their Estate. Among many other critical duties, the Estate Trustee is responsible for securing the assets of the Estate; settling any of the of the Deceased’s debts and taxes; ensuring the Deceased’s assets are distributed in accordance with the Deceased’s wishes; and, often, tending to funeral arrangements.
When a person dies intestate and an Estate Trustee is not appointed, the process of the administration of their Estate becomes much more onerous, potentially more expensive, and can be significantly delayed. By executing a Will which appoints an Estate Trustee, one can ensure that a responsible and trustworthy person, who is up to the task, will give effect to their final wishes and manage their estate effectively after death.
- You can document your intentions for your intangible, digital assets
This recent Globe and Mail article sums it up succinctly: neglecting to plan for one’s online assets can create “huge headaches” for executors, especially in light of Canadians’ “expanding digital footprints”.
In addition to those online assets which have true financial value – such as cryptocurrency, Paypal accounts, and some loyalty rewards programs – many digital assets, like Facebook or Instagram accounts, can have significant personal and sentimental value. By stating one’s preferences for digital assets management in an estate plan, one can better ensure that their wishes for these assets are honoured, and potentially reduce conflicts between loved ones that might otherwise arise in this respect. The Globe and Mail cites Facebook profiles as a prime example:
” … some loved ones may want a family member’s Facebook profile to remain active after they pass away, for remembrance; while others might want to delete the account, for closure.”
If this article has inspired to start your estate planning process, we encourage you to meet with a trusted Estates Lawyer to assist with your planning needs.
Thanks for reading!
As society is becoming more and more digitized, there is an increased need for individuals to consider their online accounts in their estate planning. Today, computers and cellphones can store a wealth of important information about an individual through applications such as Facebook, Twitter and online banking websites. Furthermore, there are many other online platforms such as online gaming websites that individuals can win money or put real money into.
In January 2016, CBC profiled a widow, Peggy Bush, in Canada who had lost her spouse, and a setback in dealing with his property was access to his Apple account. We previously wrote a blog post surrounding this case and online password access here. In Canada, there is currently no legislation or case law that deals with access to online accounts after the account holder is deceased.
To expand further on the accessibility of accounts, it is important to focus on the profitability of such accounts. With the expansive opportunity to play poker online, and put money into things such as betting websites, an issue may be raised in regard to who gets access to those funds upon death. While one may be able to make a small fortune in online activity, there is the chance it may be forgotten in the process of estate planning. This argument can go one step further. With the new craze surrounding games such as World of Warcraft or Pokemon Go, accounts have been selling on websites such as Kijiji for around $400.00. With the ability of individuals to make money off selling gaming accounts, the question becomes whether there is an obligation on an Estate Trustee or administrator to take these potential assets of value into account in distributing an estate. If one has accounts of value online, whether on a poker or betting website or another platform that may result in a profit for the individual, it may be worth considering planning for the distribution of the account.
When conducting your individual estate planning, it is becoming an increasingly important consideration to put in precautions or safeguards for your online accounts. This will ensure that your beneficiaries and estate trustees can access your valuable information or assets. Some options for individuals would be to store their passwords in an online service that would provide the information to selected trustees once the account owner passes away, or to attach a memorandum with a will, or put a provision in one’s will containing all of the individual’s online passwords. Furthermore, if one was an avid online poker player or had a particularly valuable account in the online gaming world worth money, it would be prudent to make a plan to cash out or sell the account.
With society moving in a more digital direction, and many aspects of people’s personal and business lives being increasingly stored or managed online, it is becoming necessary for individuals to consider their digital assets and account access upon the event of their death.
The death of a celebrity will sometimes cause the media to focus enquiry on estate planning. We recently blogged about the circumstances surrounding Prince’s intestacy and the possible heirs of his estate. Anton Yelchin, a 27 year old actor best known for his role in the Star Trek movies, has passed away. His death has raised a number of interesting points.
First and foremost this case raises the importance of why it is a good idea to estate plan at a younger age.While there is no target age when a will should be written, estate planning is a consideration that Millennials should take into account. Yelchin was a successful young actor who accumulated a large amount of wealth in his career. His family and friends would likely have benefitted from the crafting of an estate plan as it would give them some direction pertaining to his wishes for his money and his legacy as an actor. It would have also saved his parents the uncertainty of trying to take control of his estate while coping with his death.
As Yelchin passed away without a will, the court will ultimately decide who is appointed to distribute his assets. Yelchin’s parents are currently applying to the court in order to oversee the distribution of Yelchin’s estate. If this estate were to be in Ontario Yelchin’s parents almost certainly would be appointed as estate trustees by applying for a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee Without a Will. As per the Succession Law Reform Act in Ontario, if an individual dies with no surviving spouse or children (as is the case here), his or her parents would inherit his estate.
It is important to consider the possibility of crafting a will at a younger age in order to ensure one’s wishes are fulfilled, and as a preventative measure against costly and unnecessary litigation.
Thank you for reading.