Protect your wishes: Why Estate Planning Matters

September 2018

The unfortunate loss of The Queen of Soul reminds us why.


Aretha Franklin passed away on August 16th, 2018. She began her illustrious career humbly, singing gospel music at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit. Over the years, Ms. Franklin amassed eighteen Grammy awards, became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, was bestowed the prestigious National Medal of Arts and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She also accumulated the significant wealth that is now held in her estate.


Unfortunately, Ms. Franklin died intestate, without a will or trust. With an unconfirmed net worth of $80 million, it could be a long and bumpy road for those making a claim to her estate.


We understand that people don’t like to talk about death. It can be scary, morbid and unpleasant. However, in Canada alone, there is said to be an estimated wealth transfer wave of $750 billion over the next decade according to The Globe and Mail. Some of our clients’ hard-earned assets will contribute to this wealth transfer and those without an adequate will and estate plan risk leaving the outcome to the courts. Discussing your goals and documenting your wishes will help smooth out what can be a difficult experience for loved ones who will be impacted.

Discussing your goals and documenting your wishes will help smooth out what can be a difficult experience for loved ones who will be impacted.

When the next generation doesn’t know where all the assets are kept, things get tricky. The Bank of Canada houses “unclaimed balances” on accounts that have been inactive for over ten years and the owner cannot be contacted. The national unclaimed balance currently sits at $742 million.


So what’s your first step? Speak to an experienced estate lawyer to have your will updated and discuss with your Client Wealth Management team how we can help with wealth planning. If you have an up-to-date will, take the opportunity to ensure that the beneficiary designations on your registered accounts match the designations made through your will. These assets will bypass the probate process and will be passed directly on to your beneficiaries. Did you know that we can also list contingent beneficiaries on your registered accounts here at Gluskin Sheff? Just as your will most likely designates contingent beneficiaries, it’s a good idea to have those same beneficiaries listed on your registered accounts here as well.


We lost a legend when Ms. Franklin died, but we can learn from her situation and recognize the importance of estate planning. Successful wealth planning includes thinking about a wealth transfer plan to protect your wishes, minimize taxes and achieve your goals during your lifetime and beyond through your will and powers of attorney. Values like wealth stewardship can be passed down along with your assets, but it requires time, effort and the willingness to communicate your desires for the future.


Read more about the Franklin Estate here

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