Less than Half of Canadians have a Will and many don’t even know where to start: NIA

By Mark Venning, ChangeRangers.com

Special to Financial Independence Hub

Following Canada’s National Institute on Ageing (NIA) since their beginning in 2016, it’s been a year since I last commented on the value of the NIA as a knowledge resource for Canadians on topics related to ageing and longevity.

And I would say, their regular reports, generated often in collaboration with other groups, are also a resource for anyone engaged in comparative research outside this country.

Now here’s today’s feature on one report from the NIA files from 2023 so far

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way: Exploring Canadian Perspectives on Estate Planning.

When I first received my NIA email notification of this report on May 17th, I was not surprised in the least by the lead headline: “Less than Half of Canadians Have a Will – and Many Don’t Even Know Where To Start.” For over twenty plus years, back when I was working in partnership with financial planners to deliver seminars on later life transitions, this was always a commonly known fact, and most people who didn’t have a Will knew that they should have had one.

The April 2022 Ipsos survey for this NIA report was conducted in collaboration with RBC Royal Trust. As the report details, it all starts with overall Estate Planning, and this includes setting up a Will, Powers of Attorney (POA) for care and property and, what was less discussed twenty years ago, Advanced Care Planning. As it happens my Will and POAs are ready for some small updating, but this time advanced care will also be on the agenda.

So if, as the report suggests, people know the value of planning and the subsequent sad consequences from not doing so – what’s the reason for inaction? I recall facilitating group conversations where literally some have said things like “if I do a Will, I know fate will bring me an early death” or, “I don’t have enough of an estate to worry about.” Of course the other concern I heard was about the perceived high cost of legal fees which halted the move to getting to the matter.

How fortunate for me, straightforward household budgeting and for that matter, estate planning Wills and POAs were things I learned early on at home from my parents, not from the education system. Today, learning from professionals in these topic areas should not be that intimidating or made difficult to access. Regardless of your age, picking up this report would be a great start.

Online digital estate planning tools

Speaking of access to knowledge and support tools, on pages 22-23 in this NIA report, the one glaring option discussed, is the incorporation of on line digital estate planning tools; and to debunk some myths, concludes the report, “although the preferred option among middle-aged and older Canadians is to complete a Will through a legal professional, many are also open to … digital options ….”

In addition, this report closes with offering four solutions to help improve estate planning education and engagement. Besides the digital access, first is to improve digital literacy itself while at the same time financial literacy from the base level essentials. As an example in the report, here it is mentioned that the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada has launched a 5-year plan, their National Financial Literacy Strategy. As the long held saying goes, knowledge is power. If that’s the case then this report endorses that point for Estate Planning Literacy.


Here are links to two other NIA reports worth a read from the first half of 2023. What can Canada learn from Australia about supporting its ageing population? Read Caring for an Ageing Australia and looking to a study of six countries – Japan, Germany, South Korea, Taiwan, the Netherlands and the USA, read Could a National Long-Term Care Insurance Program be a Feasible Solution to Address Canada’s Growing Long-Term Care Crisis?

For ongoing digest news from NIA you can register on line for their weekly e-newsletter & you can also follow listings of NIA webinars on timely topics and you can follow up past webinars on the events page.

Mark Venning is a researcher, writer and commentator on topics regarding the social and business aspects of ageing populations, where he proposes changing concepts in “recoding a longevity society.” Mark is an Associate Member of the International Federation on Ageing. This blog originally appeared on Mark’s Change Rangers blog on on May 30, 2023  and is republished here with his permission.


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