Awareness vs. Action: The Estate Planning Disconnect Among Canadian Parents

3 minute read
52% of Canadian parents don't have a will, but 97% agree it's important to have one
In this article:

    Willful's mission is to make estate planning easy and accessible to all Canadians. An important part of that is helping parents put a plan in place to protect their children in case something unexpected happens. 

    The survey of 1,008 Canadian parents, commissioned by Willful and conducted among members of the Angus Reid Forum, explores the current state of estate planning in Canada—particularly for Canadian parents of minor children. It underscores a significant trend: even as they recognize the importance of having a will, they aren’t taking the next step to making one. Our research explores why over half of Canadian parents surveyed don't have a will, and discusses actionable steps to encourage more Canadian parents to complete this important task.

    Two donut charts showing that 52% of Canadian parents don't have a will but 97% agree it's important.

    Half of Canadian parents don't have a will despite knowing they should

    According to the survey, 52% of Canadian parents of minor-aged children, those 17 years of age and younger, don’t have a will. This is despite nearly all (97%) agreeing on the importance of having one.

    Here’s a closer look at what’s preventing parents from taking this important step despite knowing they should.

    Bar graph showing that parents cite lack of time and lawyer fees as the top barriers to getting a will (56% and 33%, respectively).

    Lack of time is the number one reason parents haven’t created their wills

    The number one reason parents haven’t created a will? According to 56% of respondents, they simply haven’t had time. This trend was consistent across age ranges, province of residence and gender. Next, a third of parents also consider lawyers too expensive (33%) and 30% perceive the legal process to be daunting or complicated. It makes sense; scheduling trips to a lawyer’s office is a challenge for anyone, but especially for busy parents juggling school, work and extracurricular activities. Similarly, the current economic climate has put even more pressure on Canadians, and investing thousands of dollars to have a lawyer draft estate planning documents is out of reach for many parents.

    Donut graph showing that 77% of parents are open to using an online will platform.

    Can online wills help bridge the estate planning gap?

    In our survey, over three in four parents (77%) indicated that they’re open to using an online will platform to create their will.

    This suggests that Canadians are beginning to realize that online platforms like Willful can eliminate the barriers cited by so many of the survey respondents. 

    Easy and convenient: Online will platforms significantly cut down the time it takes to create a will, and empower Canadians to complete the task from the comfort of home.

    Affordable: Online will platforms cost a fraction of the fees that traditional lawyers charge, and are easier and much less expensive to keep up to date.

    Simple and user-friendly: A new generation of Canadian parents expect streamlined, digital-first products to make once complex tasks easier.

    Bar graph showing that households with higher income are more than twice as likely to have a will.

    Parents with higher household income are more than twice as likely to have a will.

    Factors like household income and age may also play a role in determining whether or not parents have a will. In fact, those with a household income higher than $100K are more than twice as likely to have a will (53%), compared to parents with a household income under $50K (21%). Our survey already highlights the role cost plays as a barrier to getting a will, and this may be further evidence of the importance of affordability. Canadians in a lower income bracket might also own fewer assets, and believe a will isn’t as important; however settling an estate can mean more than just dividing and distributing your financial assets. Naming someone to take care of your children in the event something happens to you is essential for parents.

    Survey results also revealed that 58% of parents aged 45+ have created a will, compared to only 37% of parents aged 18-34. In other words, as parents get older, they’re more likely to have created their wills. This data is consistent with the common misconception that younger Canadians don’t need a will, or that wills are only for the wealthy; when in fact estate planning is critical for all Canadians, regardless of age or net worth.

    Bar graph showing that as parents age, they are more likely to have a will.

    88% of parents already know who they would appoint as guardians for their children 

    It’s common for people to procrastinate doing things that make them uncomfortable, and this is just as true for parents—47% of parents surveyed acknowledged that they tend to put off tasks that force them to think about their own passing. But this doesn’t mean parents aren’t thinking about it. In fact, 87% of respondents said becoming a parent made them more concerned about their end-of-life planning, and 88% said they already know who they would appoint as guardians for their children. 

    Pie chart showing that 88% of parents already know who they would appoint as guardians.

    Summing it up

    Parents have a responsibility to ensure their childrens’ well-being. Creating a will is an important step that every parent needs to take to secure the future for their children, including outlining guardianship and financial arrangements for their care. 

    But it’s clear that as a society we need to do more to make estate planning something that every Canadian parent can accomplish. This means finding ways to overcome barriers related to cost, convenience and overall accessibility. These survey results are an affirmation that online estate planning platforms like Willful can be part of the solution.

    Begin your estate planning journey today →

    Learn more about estate planning for parents

    Guide to Wills and Estate Planning for New Parents

    How To Choose A Guardian For Your Children in Your Will

    Your Guide For How To Make A Will In Canada

    5 Smart Ways To Include Your Kids In Your Will


    These are the findings of a survey conducted by Willful from September 26 to October 2, 2023, among a sample of 1,008 English-speaking Canadian parents of children under 18 years of age. All respondents are members of the Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

    About Willful
    Willful makes it affordable, convenient, and easy for Canadians to create a legal will and other estate planning documents online. Willful’s platform was developed in collaboration with leading estate lawyers and has pricing plans starting at $99. Willful is based in Toronto, and it is currently available to residents of Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Manitoba. Willful is the only online will platform to be vetted and approved by the Law Society of Ontario, and has been used by more than 150,000 Canadians to create their legal wills online.

    About the Angus Reid Forum

    The Angus Reid Forum is Canada’s most well-known and trusted online public opinion community consisting of engaged residents across the country who answer surveys on topical issues that matter to all Canadians.

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