Michelle Bérubé, Associate

Hello, fellow millennials! Gen Z, you should probably listen in too. Let’s have an important discussion about estate planning and young adults.

You may have heard of estate planning, and think of it as something that is only for people with large amounts of property, those with children and dependants, or those adults contemplating their twilight years. Well, I am here to tell you that estate planning, actually, is for everyone.

Now, you may have heard that many adults have a will, which lays out what is to happen to their property after they die. You may also have heard of powers of attorney, documents appointing people who are empowered to make decisions on your behalf when you do not have capacity to make those decisions. You may have wondered whether it was worth it to have those documents yourself. If you don’t have any dependants and not much property, it may feel pointless to go to the trouble of figuring out what happens if something happens to you.

But I ask you this, young childless adult with little property to your name: if something happens to you, who gets custody of your cat?

Think of Your Pets

This may feel like a tongue-in-cheek question, but it is, in fact, quite serious. Millennials account for 33% of all pet owners in the US, and 58% of us would rather have pets than children. By all accounts, Gen Z might be following suit. And yet, according to the current state of the law in Canada pets are legally considered property, meaning that my question is inherently flawed. The truth is, nobody will get custody of your cat, but someone will be responsible for deciding what happens to them along with the rest of your property. So, what happens to Luna, or Milo, or Mochi Beans McFlufferson if you become unable to take care of them? A will can set out your wishes in case that happens.

What Do You Want for You?

The same logic applies to other considerations as well. You may not particularly care what happens to your property once you cannot enjoy it anymore, but you may have very strong opinions about what kind of medical care you want to receive (or not receive) if you are ever injured or sick. You may have discussed these opinions with family and friends, but perhaps you haven’t. And even if you have, are you certain they really understood the importance of your wishes? A Power of Attorney and some advance directives can take care of that uncertainty.

Plus, it is important to consider that incapacity is not necessarily forever. You’ll want to make sure things are handled according to your wishes so that when you do have capacity to handle your own affairs again, they haven’t been thrown into disarray.

Your Social Media Legacy

A will can allow you to set out what you want to happen to your social media accounts and presence after you are gone. Whether you would like all your accounts deleted (we all have some cringy fanfiction we published on Tumblr, right?) or lovingly preserved for posterity, getting these wishes in writing (and telling people where to find your passwords) can ensure they are respected.

You May Not Always Be This Poor

While it may seem pointless to make plans for your property when this property consists of a bank account in the four-digits and a second-hand car, consider that it is much easier to amend an existing will than to have one prepared from scratch. Planning your estate when that estate is relatively simple can streamline the process down the line if your situation fluctuates – a promotion or an inheritance could drastically change your financial situation, and a change in your family status (like having actual human children) might prompt you to re-evaluate the distribution of your property.

Provide Clarity to Your Loved Ones

And look, maybe you don’t have a pet, or a social media presence, or a distant rich uncle poised to leave you an inheritance. But it may be worth considering the impact on your loved ones if they are left to deal with your care and property without direction from you.

Deaths and illnesses are incredibly stressful times for everyone involved. By working out a game plan ahead of time, not only are you taking steps to ensure that your wishes are respected, but you are also providing valuable direction to people who are already going to be dealing with a whole lot of uncertainty on your behalf. This can be as simple as naming the person (or people) whom you want to make the final decisions (your executor in the case of a will, your attorney in the case of a Power of Attorney). It can avoid debates, fights, and heartache in difficult moments if there is a single named person in charge of the decision-making process. Having actionable instructions from the person who is incapacitated or deceased can help with that stress even more.

Of course, not all these concerns will apply to everyone. It is important to consider the best arrangement for you and your loved ones. Perhaps you have no special desires for your property but feel very strongly about what kind of personal care you receive; perhaps you have human relatives you would like to care for even if they are not currently your dependants. This is why it is important to consult with an expert, like a lawyer, about estate planning.

It may seem like wills and powers of attorney are for people with life experience and vast amounts of property. But I am here to tell you that in reality they are for everyone who cares, even a little bit, about who speaks for them when they cannot speak for themselves.

If you would like more information or assistance with this type of matter, please reach out to Michelle Bérubé or contact Lister Beaupré LLP directly by phone at 613-234-2500 or by email at info@listerlawyers.com.

Michelle Bérubé