A fistful of money

Inheritance: everyone dreams of inheriting oodles of money from a rich aunt or uncle. But what happens when you actually get the money? It might not be everything you wish for.

Marlene Engelhorn is exactly in that position: she inherited a whopping $36.6 million dollar (in Canadian dollars) from her rich grandmother. She should be set for life, right?

Instead, the wealthy heiress is quite unhappy with the princely sum of money.

Inheriting the money was bittersweet for Engelhorn; it’s enough to live on for the rest of her life, but it left the heiress with a nagging feeling in the back of her mind. Engelhorn felt conflicted: “I am only wealthy because I was born in a rich family. And I think in a democratic society of the 21st century, birth should not be the one thing that determines whether or not you’re gonna get to lead a very good life,” Engelhorn was reported as saying.

Engelhorn began a campaign for heavier taxes on the wealthy in Austria; this included campaigning for an inheritance tax. Her pleas to the Austrian government fell on deaf ears; the tax inheritance laws that Engelhorn was hoping for didn’t come to fruition. She has therefore decided to spearhead a grass-roots campaign for heavier taxes to be levied against the wealthy in Austria.

Partnering with the Foresight Institute in Austria, Engelhorn is looking to have a committee of Austrian residents tackle economy inequality by redistributing the €25 million ($36.6 million Cdn) she is generously giving the committee to play with.

How does this work?

Engelhorn and the Foresight Institute invited 10,000 Austrian residents over the age of 16. The number will be whittled down to a lucky 50 residents, who will be randomly selected to form the “Good Council.” These members will decide (over a period of six weekends) as to how the money will be spent.

Engelhorn also continues to work with charitable groups, like Millionaires for Humanity and Tax Me Now.

She continues to lament that “the Austrian system shouldn’t allow her to accumulate so much wealth.” But without any inheritances taxes in sight, Engelhorn is left to her own devices to distribute her own wealth.

Until that changes, Engelhorn plans to give away most of her inheritance.

You can read more, here.

Dog bounding up in the air

Pet care: our furbabys are spoiled. It’s not uncommon for people to spoil their furbabys; Instagram and other social media is littered with videos and pictures of people playing with their beloved Fidos and felines, pampering them, feeding them, and just enjoying their presence. (In fact, pets sometimes get receive better care than other humans.)

Is it any surprise that people want their pets to be taken care of when they die?

There are some people who love their dogs, cat (and by extension, birds and rabbits) more than anything in the world, and have a closer relationship with them over their human counterparts (we’ll get to some real-life examples later.) It’s an increasingly popular trend: leaving behind money and assets for the care of their non-human loved ones. It’s not so far fetched when you consider how much people pamper their dogs and cats already – in fact, it’s a testament to the deep bond people share with their furry companions.

The History of Pet Inheritances

Reasons for this increasing trend

Legal Considerations

Challenges

History of Pet Inheritances

The concept of leaving money or assets to pets isn’t entirely new. In fact, it dates back centuries. Roman Emperor Gaius Caligula, for instance, left behind a substantial inheritance for his beloved horse, Incitatus. His horse was gifted with a complete with a marble stable, fine fodder, and a staff of servants (no word on how long the horse lived after his passing.) Then, there are the myriad of modern day stories: Leona Helmsley, for instance. And the late Karl Lagerfeld has a cat worth over $3 million dollars. The trend has gained momentum in recent years, with many pet owners treating their pets better than their human family members.

Reasons for the Trend

Several factors contribute to the rising popularity of leaving inheritances to pets:

1. Pets are like family (and are treated as such): Pets are often cherished as family members rather than animals (at least for dogs and cats, anyway.) This gives pets a status deserving of consideration in planning for their estate.

2. Concern for Their Well-being: Leaving a financial legacy to their pets ensures that they receive the care and attention they deserve, even in their owner’s absence.

3. No Heirs: People who are either childless or don’t have family members, people keep dogs or cats for company. They become as close to their owners as family. Leaving behind something to take care of their pets is a natural choice.

4. The Growth of Pet-Related Services: The pet industry has exploded in recent years, from pet spas, gourmet pet food, to pet therapists and luxury accommodations. With these services readily available, leaving an inheritance to pets becomes more feasible and practical. It really shows how much people love their pets and would do anything to take care of them.

While the idea of leaving inheritances to pets may be heartwarming, there are legal and practical aspects of these types of arrangements. In many provinces/territories, pets are legally regarded as property rather than as beneficiaries, which can make direct bequests challenging. To be fair, how would you directly pass on wealth to a pet? You would need someone else to look after the pet in question for you. Instead of inserting your wishes into a Will, you might want to look into a Pet Will, which allows you to comprehensively provide details for pet care after your passing.

A Pet Will allows you to legally set aside funds specifically for their pets’ care and designate a trustee responsible for managing the assets on behalf of the pets. Caregivers ensure that the pets receive the necessary care, and detailed instructions cover everything from food to medicine. It also includes any special instructions the pets might require for care.

Challenges and Controversies

Leaving inheritances to a dog or a cat is well-intentioned, but this process has it’s obvious challenges: some family members may dispute these arrangements in court, arguing that the funds should be allocated for human beneficiaries (this was the case for Leona Helmsley), rather than to pet care. There is also the sobering concern people have for their pets: will caregivers maintain care for the pets in question, or just run off with the money they were provided with for the pet’s care? Make sure ALL of your loved ones are taken care, with the right estate planning!

A car only rich people could afford

Wealth: we all chase after it. We all want to be debt-free, worry-free, and provide for our family and friends.

People are grappling with high inflation, stagnant wages, skyrocketing housing, and working “side hustles” to pay the bills. Did you know that even wealthy people are feeling this way? In 2023, 59% of what could be described as “affluent” U.S. citizens, feel secure in their assets. Compare this to the whopping 72% of Americans who felt the same, just a year before that, in 2022.

The wealthy are like us: worrying about rampant inflation. They’re not investing, they’re not taking risks with their money: they’re holding on to it, which could be a sign of how shaky the economy is right now.

The wealthy are saddled with substantial debts: they (much like the average joe) is struggling to pay off their mortgages, car loans, and wipe out their credit card balances. Yes, they probably struggle less than the average joe to pay their debts off, but struggling to pay off debts may lead to excessive borrowing. Just like the average joe, the wealthy too, should avoid maintaining credit card debts and pay off loans they have as soon as possible (easier said than done.)

One of the most pressing concerns for wealthy Americans is how much they have saved for retirement. Not just retirement, but their overall estate planning, which includes: paying taxes, paying off loans, ensuring that you have good life insurance, managing issues surrounding health, etc.

These are all things that people across every generation should think about, even cash-strapped Millennials and GenZ.

Taxes are going to become a concern heading into 2024: many taxes could increase in U.S. households. There are a number of taxes from 2016 that are set to expire in 2026. This means that taxes would increase for a number of families. Getting creative with estate planning is the answer.

One way to get around these tax cuts is to gift large trusts to children and other family members.

Hopefully, you’re off to a good start in 2024. You may be able to increase your wealth if you follow sound advice and do your research on estate planning.

Estate Planning in Canada

We all have something of value to pass on to our loved ones; that is what estate planning does and why you should plan for your estate as soon as possible. Our estates are comprised of our assets, items and all of the things that we all own. This can include anything and everything from investments, homes, cars, savings accounts, personal possessions, furniture, life insurance, etc. All of these things add up to create our personal estate(s). It’s very important to plan on how to manage all of these assets, and how they’ll be distributed when you pass away. This is where estate planning comes into play.

No matter which province you live in, whether it be Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, Manitoba, Alberta, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, or Newfoundland, estate planning is incredibly important. Estate planning can be used as a way to not only manage your assets, but also to ensure that your assets go to the right people. 

What is Estate Planning?

Key Components of Estate Planning

Effective Estate Plan

FAQs

What is Estate Planning? 

Estate planning allows you to manage your assets and estate before you pass away. If you die or become incapacitated, the person in charge of your estate, or in the event of working with an estate planning professional (if you are working with one) will have all the necessary directions and guidelines on what to do and how to complete the process.

Estate planning consists of more than simply preparing a Last Will because aside from choosing how your wealth is distributed, estate planning can also settle your debts and estate taxes. Estate planning also covers other things: the guardianship of your pets and minor children, for example. Following an estate planning checklist will help streamline the process while also helping you save time and ensure everything is managed appropriately.

How Important is Estate Planning?

Having an estate plan is of the utmost importance! If you’re looking to safeguard the future of your family, you will want to that your wealth is distributed properly. An estate plan offers control over asset distribution. It also protects your heirs by ensuring that their future(s) are taken care of.

Without proper estate planning, it can be hard to reduce the financial burdens incurred on your family when you pass away. It can also be hard to ensure that your money and wealth are distributed as per your final wishes. Thankfully, estate planning helps you gives you complete control over how you allocate your wealth in the event you pass away.



Key Components of Estate Planning 

Every estate plan is unique; however, some components tend to be a part of each plan, and here are the main ones.

Wills and trusts

A Will is a legal document that allows you to distribute your assets once you pass away. Wills are also important if you want any specific funeral arrangements, a specific guardian for your kids, and so on. You can also opt for a trust, which is a written document that ensures that the property be held by one (the “trustee”) for the benefit of another (the “beneficiary.”)

Power of attorney

A Power of Attorney document allows someone else the authority over your financial affairs and property. This document allows you to specify the details of what powers and duties your Attorney (the person you have appointed to look over your financial affairs), can or can not engage in. You can read more about how a PoA works. You may also want to think about completing a Power of Attorney for Personal Care. That will help round out your entire estate plan.

Healthcare directives

The Power of Attorney for Personal Care (otherwise known as a “Living Will”) is a document that allows you to specify what actions someone can take on your behalf. In the event of your incapacitation (unable to make decisions for yourself), the Living Will kicks in. Normally, healthcare directives are very common in the event of illness, coma, or any other situation where an individual is unable to speak on his/her behalf.

Steps to Create an Effective Estate Plan 

Establishing a proper estate plan can be very difficult and time-consuming. Here are some steps you can take to help you create an efficient estate plan.

Identifying key roles: executors, guardians, beneficiaries

When you start the estate planning process in Ontario, the most important thing is to identify the individuals who are going to be an integral part of your estate plan. The Executor is the individual who administers your estate and follow your wishes (in the Last Will and Testament.) The guardian is the individual who takes care of minor children and raises them once you pass away.

Beneficiaries inherit various items/assets. You may need to have physical witnesses when the estate planning process is just starting. For your PoA, you also need to have someone appointed as the Power of Attorney if you can’t make financial and health decisions. 

Determining estate distribution

Another major aspect of estate planning comes in the form of asset distribution. You may want to create a list of each person in your life who you are going to leave behind something for. It’s also possible to offer charitable donations through your estate plan. This can be done through your Last Will and Testament.

Outlining additional wishes

Aside from asset distribution, you may also have other special wishes to take into consideration. In that case, you may wish to create a separate document with any specific wishes you might have. That includes anything related to burial/funeral arrangements, how you distribute your valuables, or other things that were not a part of the initial process of asset distribution.

After finalizing all of the aforementioned tasks, your focus has to be on preparing the legal documents, ensuring that they are properly witnessed, signed and (if necessary, notarized.) It’s not a major part of the process, but it is important and something to keep in mind. 

Common Mistakes in Estate Planning 



Estate planning in Ontario doesn’t have to be a difficult process. It’s extremely important to know the most common mistakes in Estate planning, and how to avoid them when yourself.

  • It’s also common for people not to include any funeral arrangement preferences in their Last Wills, which can become an issue for bereaved loved ones. This can go into a separate list. It’s separate from the Will itself.
  • Not discussing issues beforehand with family and friends can also present a challenge: you want to be sure that the people who have appointed for certain roles (i.e. Executor) are going to be accepted by other members of your family. It’s best to have this discussion beforehand.
  • Some people also forget about setting up a healthcare representative or a financial Power of Attorney. You will want to have these two documents as part of your estate plan.
  • It may be beneficial to have multiple beneficiaries.
  • If you already have an estate plan in place, it makes sense to review it periodically. You should update your plan whenever required.

FAQs 


Is estate planning necessary?

Ideally, everyone should have an Estate plan. An Estate plan makes it very easy to manage your assets and ensures that someone else can make the right health-related decisions. In addition, an estate plan allows you more flexibility and control over managing and handling your assets.

Do you need an estate plan if you have a living trust?

Yes, because you want to ensure everything is handled the way you want. An estate plan is there to manage everything once you pass away.

Can you modify your estate plan?

Yes, the estate plan can be modified as many times as you want during your lifetime. The focus is on keeping it accurate and updating it with your wishes.

When is it a good idea to start an estate plan?

Now! Now is the perfect time to get started with an estate plan. There are certain times during your life when an estate plan can become a priority. That can be when you are acquiring new assets when you get married or have a child, when your children come of age, or when you retire.

Do you need a lawyer for estate planning?

If you need legal advice, an estate planning lawyer may work for you. Be sure to seek out legal advice whenever necessary!

Remember, you can always set up your Wills and estate plan online in Canada with just a few clicks!