My name is Mark Goodfield. Welcome to The Blunt Bean Counter ™, a blog that shares my thoughts on income taxes, finance and the psychology of money. I am a Chartered Professional Accountant. This blog is meant for everyone, but in particular for high net worth individuals and owners of private corporations. My posts are blunt, opinionated and even have a twist of humour/sarcasm. You've been warned. Please note the blog posts are time sensitive and subject to changes in legislation or law.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Why Can’t People Get Their Financial Affairs in Order?

Over the last year I have met several potential client's for BDO’s Wealth Advisory Services (from both inside and outside BDO). In two specific cases, the meetings went well, and as I often do; I undertook some initial basic discovery about the prospective client’s financial affairs and personal objectives, among other things.

In both these cases, the individuals were either in the midst of selling a business or had sold their business for millions. I thus suggested they may wish to update their wills to reflect their change (or upcoming change) in financial circumstances.

I was shocked that each of the potential clients sheepishly answered they did not have wills to update. I was astonished that these highly sophisticated business people did not have wills. (I know what you’re thinking: Mark, you’ve written on this issue numerous times, like this post on Canadians not writing wills and this one on famous people who had no will, why can't you give this a break. But let just say I sometimes figure if I keep hoping, things will change - sort of like the Maple Leafs prolonged Cup drought).

The excuses

I asked the two individuals, why they had no will. One said it has been on their to-do list for several years and with the sale about to happen it will now move up the list. The other answer had something to do with bad karma in writing a will.

It seems to me that Canadians do not make wills for the following reasons (there are far more, but I will stick with five):
  1. We love to procrastinate
  2. It is a bad omen to make a will
  3. “I am young, so I don’t need to”
  4. People aren’t sure how they wish to distribute their estate
  5. Some people are oblivious about the impact on their family (dying without a will leaves a mess for the surviving spouse, children, and executors to clean up an estate)

Has your business advisor harassed you to draft a will?

I remember thinking how Prince’s team of advisors could ever have allowed him to not have a will when I wrote the post on famous people dying without a will. When meeting the two people above, I wondered: had their advisors not spoken to them about this topic?

I think many advisors do ask their clients about their personal affairs, including their wills, but may give up when no action is taken or just keep reminding and harassing them to no avail. But I also think many advisors get caught up assisting their clients with their business affairs and often do not connect the business and personal sides. This is why I really like my wealth advisory gig: I get to connect these two aspects and integrate a client’s business, personal, retirement and estate planning into one.

I know many advisors read this blog, so advisors, at your next meeting with any client, circle back on what happens if they die (if you do not have an advisor, have this conversation with yourself :). Make sure they have these basics covered:
  1. Will and a secondary will for their corporate interests if their province allows
  2. Power of attorney for finances
  3. Power of attorney for personal care (medical)
  4. Insurance in case of death

I am not letting you off easy

If you are reading this and don’t have a will, powers of attorney or life insurance on your life to support your family if you pass away, you need to get over whichever one of the five hang-ups you have for not dealing with these matters and consider the mess you will leave your family without a will or any of the other key items. Do it for them—today, this week or this month; not “sometime before year-end."

The content on this blog has been carefully prepared, but it has been written in general terms and should be seen as broad guidance only. The blog cannot be relied upon to cover specific situations and you should not act, or refrain from acting, upon the information contained therein without obtaining specific professional advice. Please contact BDO Canada LLP to discuss these matters in the context of your particular circumstances. BDO Canada LLP, its partners, employees and agents do not accept or assume any liability or duty of care for any loss arising from any action taken or not taken by anyone in reliance on the information on this blog or for any decision based on it.

Please note the blog posts are time sensitive and subject to changes in legislation.

BDO Canada LLP, a Canadian limited liability partnership, is a member of BDO International Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, and forms part of the international BDO network of independent member firms. BDO is the brand name for the BDO network and for each of the BDO Member Firms.


  1. Thank you for this! Might I add to your list of excuses? I often hear "I don't need a will because I'm married and everything is going to my spouse anyway". In any given case, that may or may not be true, but people make the statement without any legal, tax, or financial information to support it.

    1. Thx Lynne, I guess comments like those keep us in business :)