Sign up for the Globe Advisor weekly newsletter for professional financial advisors on our newsletter sign-up page. Get exclusive investment industry news and insights, the week’s top headlines, and what you and your clients need to know.
The physical and emotional toll of the pandemic over the past few years has brought estate planning into focus like never before, with young and old considering whether they have a will and what will happen to their assets when they pass away.
Advisors have a very important role in guiding clients through the process of creating testamentary documents with legal professionals that are also in accordance with their financial goals and how they want their assets to be distributed.
Here’s a look back at the top 10 Globe Advisor articles that addressed advisors’ and clients’ concerns when it comes to estate planning:
Several important legal changes came into effect in 2022 for estate planning in Ontario that have an impact on how wills are produced and considered – in most cases, especially for people who are married, separated, and in common-law relationships. Advisors and their clients should be aware of these new rules and seek proper estate planning advice to ensure that testamentary documents are compliant with the reforms and deliver their intended effect when executed.
Being named as the executor of a will is often seen as an honour, but advisors and legal experts say it’s very important for clients to understand the responsibilities and risks before saying “yes.” Following a death, the executor’s immediate responsibilities include locating the will and all assets of the deceased, securing those assets and making sure they’re not losing value. For example, locking up the house and also making sure insurance is kept up to date and pipes don’t burst.
Working on estate plans with clients can be a challenge at the best of times, but throw new spouses and stepchildren into the mix, and those trials multiply fast. Emotions are heightened with blended families, including feelings over fairness, says Matt Stiller, certified financial planner (CFP) with Stiller Financial at FundEx Investments Inc. in London, Ont. Fortunately, there are several holistic strategies advisors can use to mitigate the risks and keep blended families together – and that combination of soft skills and financial expertise is needed more than ever.
No one likes talking about death, but avoiding the conversation with clients, especially young ones, means there’s a demographic that’s being underserved. A recent survey showed that 70 per cent of respondents aged 18 to 34 said they don’t have a will. There’s a lot of work for advisors to do around educating young people about the importance of wills. Helping young people in this area can also be a value add, especially as many have been turning to do-it-yourself investing solutions.
A growing number of single people and couples are choosing not to have children for myriad reasons – a decision that advisors say has implications for their long-term financial and estate plans. “Often, children play the role of caretaker, power of attorney, executor, and beneficiary, [so] childfree clients require more planning in these areas, and it’s more complex,” says Blake Griffith, CFP and president with Griffith & Associates Financial & Estate Planning Services Ltd. at Sun Life Financial Investment Services (Canada) Inc. in Calgary.
This holiday season is the first time in years that many Canadian families will gather in person and, for some, it could be a perfect opportunity to discuss important topics like estate planning. Talking about wills, long-term care needs and who gets mom and dad’s valuables when they pass away may not sound like great holiday conversation. Still, advisors say there are ways to make memories and discuss estate and end-of-life planning with family during the holidays.
Clients who experience the passing of a close family member or friend and find themselves unable to access that person’s non-banking digital accounts – even if they have a will – may be one of the most overlooked issues an advisor has to deal with. The material these clients are seeking can vary widely, from treasured family photos, to travel reward points and businesses that rely on social media to generate revenue to cryptocurrency holdings that can run into the millions of dollars. One option is appointing a special executor just for digital assets.
Financial, tax and estate planning for LGBTQ+ clients are largely similar to heterosexual clients, but there are some nuances advisors should keep in mind to ensure they’re providing specialized guidance. For example, an important financial planning concern for transgender Canadians is the cost of gender affirmation procedures. Transitioning can include a host of costly medical procedures, including top and bottom surgeries, facial feminization or masculinization, voice pitch surgery and speech therapy.
For many clients, preparing a will is considered as unpleasant as a root canal. If they have finally managed to complete a will, they often tuck it into a safe drawer that’s opened rarely. But life happens, assets change and what made sense five years ago may no longer now. Thus, having an updated will that reflects one’s current life situation is just as important as having a will in the first place. A review of a client’s existing will is often part of the intake process for advisors.
Estate planning can be complicated. Estate planning when people have property in different jurisdictions can be a whole new challenge altogether. For advisors, knowing what to look for – and what might be missing – in client wills that deal with assets in different provinces or countries can ensure client estates will be handled as smoothly as possible.
For more from Globe Advisor, visit our homepage.