This Blog was written by: Alicia Godin, Estate and Trust Consultant, Scotia Wealth Management
As we approach mid-August, many students (and parents) have turned their minds to the new school year. Although this year post-secondary education may look slightly different for many students with the switch to online learning, it is nevertheless a milestone worth celebrating. This author has taken the liberty of compiling some gift ideas for young adults starting (or returning) to post-secondary education in the Fall:
- Spare phone charger … which is the 21st century equivalent of socks from grandma but nevertheless useful and handy to have;
- Noise-cancelling (wireless) headphones;
- Coffee maker… which may be a necessity even if they are staying home;
- Cookbooks or a subscription to a meal-prep provider like HelloFresh, Good Food etc… (not sponsored);
- Lululemon gift card for lounge and activewear (not sponsored although I wish I was) to stay comfy all day;
- Blue-light blocking glasses … which, even if the benefits haven’t been proven by definitive research… glasses worked for Elle Woods;
- Bluetooth portable speaker;
- Powers of Attorney;
- Last Will and Testament.
Did those last two suggestions surprise you? There are any number of articles on the internet highlighting the importance of preparing a Last Will and Testament. Nevertheless, a report in 2018 found that a majority of Canadians have no Will in place. Many respondents felt they were “too young” to have a Will and almost as many felt that they did not have “enough assets to make a Will worthwhile.”
A Will allows you to appoint an executor (also referred to as an estate trustee) which is the individual (or individuals) with the authority to administer your estate. Your executor is responsible for carrying out more than 101 tasks, including ensuring that your estate is distributed according to your instructions. Perhaps more importantly for young Canadians, is the fact that your executor has the authority to make decisions regarding the disposition of your remains. If you are over the age of 18 and pass away without a Will there is no one automatically entitled to administer your estate or to make funeral/burial arrangements. Your parents (or a friend, relative, guardian) must apply to the Court for approval. This usually results in unnecessary delay, added cost, and likely additional stress on parents during an already extremely difficult time.
Also important for young adults to consider, is the preparation of Powers of Attorney. When you reach the age of 18 your parents no longer have the presumptive right to make health care or financial decisions for you. The Power of Attorney for Personal Care and Continuing Power of Attorney for Property allow you to appoint an individual (or individuals) to make health care, financial and property related decisions for you in the event that you are unable to make these decisions yourself.
Many students leave home in order to attend post-secondary education. Travelling to and from a new city, with (often) new financial independence and other obligations like rent, utilities, tuition and more, increases the need to be prepared. Appointing a parent (for example) as an attorney for property could allow that parent to ensure bills are paid if their child were incapacitated but could also allow them to offer assistance when students inevitably travel… of course travel may look different in our post-pandemic world. For example, if a child were completing a study-abroad program overseas, having a power of attorney in place would allow you to very easily deposit (or withdraw) funds from the student’s account as needed. It would also allow you to deal with financial institutions and the CRA on the student’s behalf when an unexpected development arose.
On the other hand, imagine a scenario where an adult child leaves home to attend school and becomes injured, requiring a lengthy recovery in hospital. Not having powers of attorney in place in advance would mean the parent using their own assets to cover financial obligations in the interim. It would also mean not being able to redirect mail or access accounts to determine what bills and other obligations there are. Another consideration would be who should be making personal care decisions.
Neither a Will nor Powers of Attorney for young adults need to be complex documents, in fact, they should be simple and straightforward. The hope is that these documents will remain in a drawer, unused, for many years, but they are important documents to have in place for the unexpected and can help reduce some of the stress felt by surviving family members.
 What ‘will’ happen with your assets? Half of Canadian adults say they don’t have a last will and testament. (January 23 2018) Angus Reid Institute. Retrieved from: https://angusreid.org/will-and-testament/.