Ah, the sights and sounds of the holidays: trees and homes covered in lights, meticulously wrapped gifts piling ever higher and radios blaring the same Christmas songs since Nov. 1.

What better time to think about making a will?

Hear me out. As we head into another new year, we’re all taking stock of the past 12 months and looking forward with cautious optimism through the lens of an ongoing coronavirus pandemic, unprecedented extreme weather events and, well, I’ll just stop there. I promise to keep this light for the holidays.

Read: Employers offering wills, estate planning tools amid pandemic

That said, it’s something we could all be thinking about a little more. A 2019 Statistics Canada report found that while 55 per cent of Canadians have a will and 40 per cent have powers of attorney drawn up, those numbers dropped to 22 per cent and nine per cent, respectively, among Canadians under age 35.

A 2020 survey by Lawyers’ Professional Indemnity Co. found that among the 56 per cent of respondents who don’t have a signed will in place, 29 per cent said it was because they either didn’t know how to set up a will or because they thought it was too expensive. The survey also found that the majority (88 per cent) of respondents between the ages of 27 and 34 don’t have a will and, among these respondents, 21 per cent said it’s because they believe they’re too young. If the last 21 months have taught us anything, it’s that anything can happen.

Needless to say, this is a problem. The lack of a signed will at the time of death can lead to numerous undesirable situations — from unexpected beneficiaries to excess legal costs — that surviving spouses or family members will be dealing with at an already difficult time.

However, there are encouraging signs that young Canadians are giving more thought to estate planning amid the ongoing pandemic. A February 2021 survey by found that 16.2 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 18 and 24 have a current will, up from 7.9 per cent in 2016. Similarly, 15.1 per cent of respondents between the ages of 25 and 34 said they have a current will, compared to 12.4 per cent in 2016.

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Employers can play a vital role here by emphasizing the importance of a will through their financial literacy programs or, better still, by offering estate planning services through their benefits packages. And while it’s still a relatively niche offering, some Canadian companies are already doing just that.

Last year, Toronto-based human resources technology company Humi began holding education sessions for its team through online estate planning platform Willful, while also including estate planning resources in the benefits programs that Humi offers to its employer clients. Toronto’s Propeller Coffee Co. also introduced estate planning for employees in 2020, by offering a free will through Willful.

If an employer’s benefits and retirement offerings are already taking care of employees in their working years and into retirement, it makes perfect sense to help those same employees plan even further into the future. It’s a great trend to see and hopefully one that gains more traction in the year ahead.

And while thinking about the inevitable may be the furthest thing from your mind as you unwrap presents and sit down to a meal, planning ahead with a will is the best gift that you could give your family this holiday season and beyond.

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