Why writing a Will is the first thing to do as a new parent

Guest post by Barry Choi: a personal finance and travel expert based in Toronto who makes frequent media appearances. His website moneywehave.com is one of Canada’s top resources for anything related to travel and money. Barry shares his thoughts on the importance of Writing Will as a new parent.

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In 2017, my wife and I welcomed our daughter to the world. I wish I could tell you everything went according to plan, but it took years to get pregnant. It’s not like something just clicked one day, we had to get help via IVF.

It was a daunting process with many appointments and tens of thousands of dollars spent. We researched the topic and spoke to various healthcare professionals and parents who also faced a similar ordeal. When she was finally born, we knew she was a miracle, so we wanted to ensure that we cherished every moment with her.

Writing a Will as a new parent
Credit: Pexels

Unfortunately, we made one significant mistake right away. We didn’t get our wills set up. It took close to a year before we got them done and admittedly, there was more than one occasion where I thought to myself, what if?

Here’s why writing a will should be one of the first things you do as a new parent.

Writing a Will protects your family

As someone who works in finance, I knew that having a will was essential, but I never set one up. I’m not sure what the reason was, but since my wife had access to all my accounts, I didn’t think a will was a priority.

The assumption was, if anything were to happen to one of us, everything would go to the surviving spouse, but that’s not always the case. We then thought to ourselves, what if we were to suddenly pass at the same time, who would take care of our daughter?

This was arguably the most important question as deciding on a guardian was harder than you would think. Our parents were getting older, so while they would have gladly accepted the role, their long-term health was obviously a concern.

My brother was the next natural choice, but we weren’t sure if he was up for the task, so we asked him. There was no hesitation as he said yes.

We knew our daughter would be safe in his care. Still, we also realized that my brother is often with us, so there was a slim possibility that he could pass at the same time as us if there was ever an accident. That required us to come up with a backup guardian, which took a bit longer than we expected.

There are many things to consider

With our guardians chosen, we moved onto our executor and power of attorney, which was a relatively straightforward process. But when it came to our assets, we had a few scenarios in mind that needed to be put in writing.

If my wife and I were to suddenly pass, there would be seven-digit insurance payout. Hopefully, my daughter never has to collect it, but if she did, we didn’t want her to have access to all that money right away.

I’ve come across too many people who have blown small fortunes, and this money needed to last. In our will, we requested a trust be set up where a percentage of the estate would be released to her based on her age. Of course, we also ensured that some funds would be available to her guardian to assist in raising my daughter.

While working out the details, we realized that we had a lot of different accounts and assets. There were RRSPs, TFSAs, RESP, valuables, property and more. It was hard enough for us to keep track at times, so putting it in writing or digitally online, was something we needed to do for our executor.

Fortunately, we didn’t have pets at the time, so we didn’t need to worry about them. That said, my wife and daughter have been pressuring me for a dog, so we may have another family member in the future that we need to think about.

Writing a Will doesn’t take long

One of the reasons I delayed getting a will was that I thought it would take a long time. To be honest, this was a ridiculous assumption since a will is something that would protect my family. Plus, doesn’t it sound ironic that I delayed getting a will because I thought it would take too much time?

When using online will services such as LegalWills.ca, you can have a customized will in 20 minutes. I know that sounds ridiculously fast, but I’ve done a will online and can confirm that’s an accurate timeline.

Looking back, I can tell you that there are many things I spent much longer than 20-minutes doing. As a personal finance expert, I’ve spent endless hours researching the best travel credit cards in Canada and the best high interest savings accounts. I’m always looking for the best deals when it comes to my spending and saving, yet I made a huge mistake by not protecting my family.

Final thoughts

According to an Angus Reid survey done in 2018, 51 per cent of Canadians don’t have a will. This isn’t terribly surprising, but at the same, it’s absolutely shocking. I always recommend new parents that getting a will done should be a priority since it doesn’t take long, and the cost is reasonable. There’s no better feeling than knowing that you’re protecting your child in every scenario.

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