Wills, power of attorney documents protect home investments

by Brenda Fehr on 16 Mar 2021

Purchasing a dream home is a significant life milestone that marks the acquisition of a major financial asset, but protecting it with a will is equally important, points out Erin Bury, co-founder and CEO of Willful.

The Toronto-based company offers a service that enables clients to create their own will and power of attorney documents online. Bury notes that a home purchase is the second-most popular life event Willful users cite for creating a will, with the first being the birth of a child.

A 2018 Angus Reid Institute poll found that 51% of Canadians said they had no last will and testament in place. Moreover, according to the Canadian Housing Survey conducted by Statistics Canada in 2018, 10,137,800 out of 14,790,400 Canadian households owned their home in 2018.

With home ownership cited by Willful’s clients as a major reason to create a will, the COVID-19 pandemic also looks to have become a galvanizer, says Bury.

“COVID-19 has caused emergency planning to be extremely top of mind for Canadians, and we saw a big jump in traffic and sales when the pandemic hit, and it’s remained a priority as we’ve gone through multiple lockdowns,” she said.

“Creating a will doesn’t always have a sense of urgency—it’s easy for it to fall down the to-do list. The pandemic really highlighted that the unexpected can happen anytime, and it’s better to be prepared before you need to put these plans into action.”

Just like home insurance, a will protects your asset in the event of an emergency, and it ensures that you can leave a property to your chosen beneficiary, while a power of attorney document is important for those who own a home.

“While a will outlines what happens when you pass away, a power of attorney document outlines what happens when you’re still alive but need someone else to make health care and financial decisions for you,” said Bury.

“By creating a financial power of attorney, called a Power of Attorney for Property in Ontario, you’re appointing someone who can step in and handle your finances if you're incapacitated, including taking care of your home, and if you don’t have this document in place, someone will have to apply to the courts to act in this role, which could mean missed bills or other immediate concerns that can't be taken care of.”

Bury added that in the event of an accident, which would likely result in missed bill payments and could compromise continued ownership of the asset, appointing a Power of Attorney for Property serves as a measure of protection.

Bury says that regardless of what type of real estate you own—a personal home, an investment property, or even land—and how you own them (personally or under a corporation), a will can ensure you are in the driver’s seat for how these properties are passed on after your untimely passing.

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