How has pandemic changed our view on estate planning

January 27, 2022

Many of us spend a lot of time thinking about what we should do with our finances in order to set ourselves up for retirement. However, we spend so much time thinking about what we need to do to get there, we often forget that all our hard work and sacrifice needs to be protected after we are gone. The impact of the various strains of the COVID pandemic can serve as a reminder that our health is not to be taken for granted. A Government of Canada Survey in 2019, reported a disturbing pattern that has been consistent fact that almost half (45%) of Canadians don’t even have a will. 

Protecting your assets after you are not in a position to control them is essentially Estate planning. The goal of estate planning is to achieve the state of financial affairs at your death or later in your life when you wish to transfer family property to others. Similar to your financial plan, your estate plan should not be something you do once, then file away. It should be treated like a living, breathing bodyguard that may be called into action to protect your financial affairs if need be. As a result, you should maintain an on-going relationship and revisit it at least every 5 years, or more often, depending on various changes happening in your life.

A Last Will and Testament is an important part of your estate plan kind of like a bodyguard to your financial affairs after your death. A will is the badge that gives it authority and jurisdiction to dictate how your assets and property should be handled. Your will’s primary function is to specify to whom and when your assets are to be distributed.  You may want to leave specific properties (e.g. jewelry, furniture, car or shares in your business) to specific beneficiaries. In your will it should be indicated that you have designated one or more persons as your executor(s) (also called estate trustee(s)). The person should be someone you can trust to take charge of your affairs and distribute your assets in accordance with your desires as set out in your will. They should be able to act as a good member within the security team and follow the instructions of your will. The executor and estate trustee will normally apply to the court for “letters probate”, which will give court approval for then executor to take over your property, manage it and distribute it to your beneficiaries.  Probate can become very costly and at SPP we strongly recommend that you designate a beneficiary to your plan, as it can help.

If you do not make a will provincial law will determine how your assets are distributed. The result can vary significantly, depending on where you reside at the time of death. We have spent a lot of time in doors during this pandemic, isolated, worrying about our health and what life will look like in the future. Estate planning helps you maintain some control on the future and how you want it to be even if you are not here to see it.

Written by David Musisi

David Musisi, is a Retirement Information Officer at Sask Pension Plan in Kindersley, Saskatchewan and a long time professional in the Finance Industry. His interests are following the markets, travelling, soccer, music and spending quality time with his family.

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