Financial planning and wellness: The importance of a will

A file folder with papers sticking out. The folder has a sticker that reads "Important"

What’s in your death drawer? Let us explain.

Wills are not just for the very rich or the very elderly, and they shouldn’t be a last-minute part of life for anybody. On the latest episode of CABHI’s Community of Innovation’s podcast, Drs. Allison Sekuler, President and Chief Scientist and Rosanne Aleong, Executive Director, Research, Innovation, and Translation and their guests discuss why creating a formalized will is one of the best things you can do for your loved ones.

Erin Bury is the Co-founder & Chief Executive Officer at Willful, a popular online will platform. Willful is a proud portfolio company of CABHI, meaning that Erin successfully applied for funding from our MC2 program. Erin explains that a last will and testament simplifies arrangements after your death. It informs your loved ones about your wishes, and basically spells out “who gets what”. If there is no will in place, those you leave behind may have to make difficult decisions – or have awkward discussions – during a very difficult time.

Laura Tamblyn Watts, a lawyer, professor, and CEO of CanAge, the seniors advocacy organization, says that the number of adults without a will is astounding, especially as we are in the middle of the largest transfer of intergenerational wealth ever seen.

For those putting it off, Laura talks about a family “death drawer.” This is where you could store your funeral playlist, recipes for the caterer, articles about burial options, a draft obituary, a list of social media accounts and passwords, etc. It’s an easy entry point to preparing the actual will. Just make sure to date everything, so your executor and loved ones can identify your most recent wishes.

What *not* to do with your actual will:

  • Leave it in a drawer at home (that’s not a secure location.)
  • Lock it in your safety deposit box (that’s too secure. Your executor might have to get a court order to open it.)
  • Seal it in a bag in your freezer (seriously, people do this.)
  • Omit a legal heir without explanation (they could contest the will, causing delays and frustration.)

What you *should* do with your will:

  • Sign it and have two competent witnesses who are present at the same time sign it.
  • Tell your powers of attorneys where it is. Ideally, it would be filed with your lawyer.
  • Use a platform like Willful to create and store it online. Again, tell your powers of attorney.
  • Update it every few years, especially when significant life events occur (e.g., birth of a child, inheritance, the death of a beneficiary, etc.).
  • If you finalized your will in one province, then relocate to another province (or country), your will is no longer valid. You will have to create a new one.

What lots of people don’t consider while preparing their wills:

  • Who do you want to care for your pets?
  • It’s ideal to tell the people you’ve named as your powers of attorney and executors that you’ve done so. Not everybody wants to accept that level of responsibility.
  • You are allowed to have joint executors. You can also appoint a backup executor.
  • Your last will and testament is not the place for your end-of-life care decisions.

This interesting and at times even humorous podcast outlines how terms and rules vary in different jurisdictions. It also makes clear the differences in terms such as a power of attorney versus an executor.

Key Takeaways

Erin: “We don’t take out life insurance for our own benefit; we take out life insurance to care for those we leave behind. It’s the same principle with a will.”

Laura: “Many people think that if someone dies without a will, the government will take everything. The government doesn’t take everything, but they do take over everything,” meaning that governing bodies will distribute assets as best they can.

Key Highlights

Dr. Allison Sekuler: “One of the things that stood out for me was that we debunked so many myths and misconceptions. I now think I’m actually looking forward preparing my will! How about you? What stood out for you?”

Dr. Rosanne Aleong: “Two words: death drawer. I won’t get too much into it because you have to listen to the episode. It’s a really good idea!”



  • Willful’s website, where they have an online learning centre, FAQs, and a blog


  • CanAge has a tip sheet about How to Handle Financial Requests from Adult Children and information about current financial scams that exploit older adults – both are under the Resources section at
  • Her book, Let’s Talk About Aging Parents: A Real-Life Guide to Solving Problems with 27 Essential Conversations comes out on April 30!

Learn more about our guests

As the CEO of CanAge, Laura Tamblyn Watts embodies a commitment to the betterment of elder care and the rights of older adults. Her multifaceted career spans law, academia, and policy development, reflecting a dedication to impactful advocacy and education.

With a legal background as a member of the BC Bar since 1999, Laura has served as National Director of the Canadian Centre for Elder Law and as Chief Public Policy Officer at CARP. She is also an Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto’s Factor Faculty of Social Work.

Erin Bury is an entrepreneur, speaker, startup advisor, and former technology journalist. She’s the co-founder and CEO at Willful, an online estate planning platform that makes it easy for Canadians to create a will. Willful is also a CABHI portfolio company, meaning that they successfully applied to one of our acceleration programs!

At Willful, Erin is responsible for driving the company’s mission to make it easier for Canadians to prepare for and deal with death in a digital age. She was also named one of Marketing Magazine’s top 30 Under 30 marketers, journalists & PR pros in 2012.

About the Podcast

CABHI’s Community of Innovation podcast is where topics on ingenuity, aging and brain health collide. Join us as we talk to experts in healthcare, research, technology, and business, as well as older adults and their caregivers, about the innovative practices and healthtech solutions helping us all lead longer, healthier lives.

Hosted by Dr. Allison Sekuler (President and Chief Scientist at CABHI) and Dr. Rosanne Aleong (Director of Research, Innovation, and Translation at CABHI).

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