Financial advisors say they’ve encountered countless Canadians who have delayed even the most rudimentary outline of what would happen if they were to die suddenly.
Surviving relatives, including spouses, sometimes wind up swimming through disorganized paperwork that is missing key information on bank accounts, life insurance policies and even certain assets.
“It’s amazing how many people have not done their will,” says Jennifer Black, author of Managing Alone, a guide outlining factors to consider if your spouse dies.
“There’s always something that is holding them back.”
She says a common excuse she hears is that people can’t decide on a specific guardian and executor because they’re afraid of changing their mind. Ultimately, that leaves them making no decision at all when it would have been easier to write it up and revise it later.
While preparing a will is a great place to start, it only answers the question of “What happens to my stuff?” says Rona Birenbaum, a founder and president of financial planning service Caring for Clients Inc.
“A will isn’t going to make sure that a couple’s finances are structured such that, as soon as somebody dies, the survivor actually has access to cash and all the bank accounts don’t get frozen,” she says. “One of the very important aspects of estate planning is the consolidation of information, it’s like a record-keeping exercise.”
Birenbaum suggests couples use an estate planning kit to outline where all of their assets and life insurance policies are located, and then document contact information for accountants, lawyers and financial planners.