On average, women in Canada live four years longer than men. Canada is also in the middle of the largest intergenerational wealth transfer in history, which will see an unprecedented amount of wealth pass primarily to women to manage. The reality is that women are more likely than men to be alone and financially self-reliant in their later years. Having a carefully thought-out financial plan—and ensuring loved ones also have financial plans in place—is critical to preparing for both unexpected life events and the future in general.

Ensure you know your spouse’s wishes

Two-thirds (66%) of Canadians don’t know the end-of-life wishes of their spouses, according to our research at Willful. My husband and I started Willful after his uncle passed away in 2015. We learned that he’d never discussed his end-of-life wishes with his wife, leaving her—and the wider family—struggling to balance our grief with paperwork.

All too often, my customers tell me that their spouse is dragging their heels and avoiding getting their will done because they don’t want to contemplate tough decisions. Death is an uncomfortable subject for many, but the consequences of not having end-of-life plans will likely fall on women, due to our longer life expectancy. It’s in our best interest to ensure that our spouses have up-to-date legal documents (including a will) and a life insurance policy that names us as the beneficiary.

It’s also important to simply have these conversations. Part of my mission is to remove the stigma around discussing estate planning. I often tell my customers: Pour a glass of wine and ask your partner what kind of legacy they want to leave. This, to me, is a softer way to broach the subject than asking, “Hey, when you die, what do you want to happen?”

While we know Canadian women are stepping up and taking control of their financial lives more than ever before, I encourage all women to continue to have a vested interest in household financial matters. This isn’t necessarily a gendered issue—it’s sensible for both spouses to have a handle on finances in case one has to step in during an emergency, and it’s an additional layer of protection women can add for themselves. Whether we pass away first or not, we should empower ourselves with knowledge about household finances—including budgeting, bills, loans, insurance and investments—to ensure we aren’t left in the dark in the event of divorce, illness, injury, death or a change in circumstances.

Encourage your parents to start estate planning

Women are more likely than men to bear the burden of being a caregiver, whether that’s caring for children, their spouse or aging parents. For Canadian women like me in the so-called “sandwich generation”—caring for both our kids and our parents—it’s crucial to ensure our parents have comprehensive end-of-life plans in place. Our generation will likely find ourselves becoming the executors of our parents’ estates, or assisting the executor with everything from closing our parents’ bank and investment accounts to planning celebrations of life. In a 2021 Willful and 1Password survey of 1,000 Canadian millennials, over half of respondents (56%) said they don’t have access to their parents’ online accounts, and about a third (29%) aren’t sure if their parents have a will.

In my family, talking about estate planning isn’t taboo. Because I run an estate planning company, I’m constantly touting the importance of our parents documenting their funeral and burial wishes, recording their legal wishes in a will and power of attorney documents, and storing other key information like password, asset and liability lists alongside their legal documents. I have a vested interest in their being organized, knowing that I’m the person in the family who’s going to be dealing with the bulk of their arrangements. If they don’t have this information in place, I’ll be going on a wild goose chase to find it.

The best gift your parents can give you is proper pre-planning—from pre-arranging their funeral and burial, to recording key information, to ensuring they’ve stored information in an accessible place.


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