BMO Retirement Institute Report: Estate Planning in the Modern World - Accounting for Parents, Pets and Digital Assets

- While more Americans are caring for parents than ever before, less than one-third have made provisions for them in their estate plans*

- Almost two-thirds of Americans own a pet, only one-third have included them in their estate plans

- Although the overwhelming majority of Boomers have digital assets such as online financial accounts, digital photos, and social networking profiles, 57 per cent have not considered these in their estate plans

Apr 30, 2012, 07:00 ET from BMO Financial Group

CHICAGO, April 30, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- A new report released today by the BMO Retirement Institute, Estate planning in the 21st century: New considerations in a changing society, indicates that the estate plans of Americans will need to be reviewed in order to factor in new considerations.

The report explores three key elements to consider when leaving a legacy:

  • The growing need to ensure that aging parents for whom care is being provided are factored into estate plans
  • The evolving importance of pets in our lives and how they can be incorporated into estate plans
  • The embracing of new technologies among Boomers, and how their digital assets will be dealt with when they pass away or become incapacitated

"When we think of estate planning, it's often focused around the more traditional aspects, such as leaving money for the children or to charities," said Tina Di Vito, Head of the BMO Retirement Institute. "However, we need to start incorporating emerging trends, such as advancements in technology, our close relationship with pets and the ongoing care of parents if we want to minimize the burden on loved ones."

The Sandwich Generation: Caring for Aging Family Members

The older segment of the population is growing rapidly and are living longer, leaving Boomers to care for their aging parents. The report states that 15 per cent of Americans currently care for an aging parent, relative or friend, with 58 per cent providing both personal and financial support. However, if that caregiver dies unexpectedly and contingencies are not included in the estate plan, there is a real risk that the parent will face obstacles in terms of their finances, ongoing care and quality of life. The report found that:

  • Only 33 per cent of caregivers have made a provision for their aging parents, relatives or friends in their estate plan 
  • Of the small minority who have made a provision for their parent or relative, 55 per cent thought of it themselves while only 24 per cent said that a legal professional made the recommendation  

Ms. Di Vito noted that Boomers in care-giving roles should consider including their aging parents into their estate plans to avoid future hardship and heartache for their loved ones.

Man's Best Friend – Pet Ownership

Pet lovers are a dedicated bunch and many will go to extreme lengths to care and provide for their pets. The report found that the majority of Americans (61 per cent) own a pet and more than three-quarters (77 per cent) feel it is important to make arrangements for their ongoing care should their pet outlive them. 

Recently, Oprah Winfrey made headlines when it was revealed that her dogs are set to receive $30 million from her estate for their care.  While few can afford to be so generous, most pet owners would like to guarantee some degree of security for their pets.  The report reveals the following:

  • Eighty-seven per cent of people consider pets to be a "family member" and 77 per cent believe pets should be included in estate plans
  • However, only one-third have actually made some kind of estate planning provision for them

Dying in a Digital World

As Boomers delve into the online world more frequently, their digital assets greatly increase; 84 per cent of Boomers use at least one online financial tool. Today's Boomers have a personal, professional and financial presence online that has led to a high number of intangible digital assets.  However, they are often overlooked in estate plans. According to the report:

  • More than half (58 per cent) of those with digital property believe it is important to set contingencies for them in case of one's incapacity or death
  • However, 57 per cent of Americans with digital assets who have made formal estate planning arrangements have not made provisions, with the top reasons being that they did not think of it or did not think it was necessary

Ms. Di Vito offers the following estate planning advice to consider:                                                           

Have 'the Talk': To help determine how to include aging parents as beneficiaries in your estate plan, have a frank conversation with your spouse, siblings and parents about how to ensure your parents' continued care is not at risk.

Caring for Fido: Consider leaving a reasonable monetary legacy in an estate to a caregiver who could use the funds to care for your pet. Including this provision will minimize the risk of the pet becoming abandoned or given to a shelter.

Think Digital: Think actively and openly about the digital aspects of your estate plan. Consider consulting your legal advisor about how to safeguard and ensure an orderly distribution of your digital wealth to loved ones so they are able to access online financials, close out email and social media accounts and retrieve sentimental digital photos or extensive music collections.

To view a copy of the full report, please visit:

*Sources for all data and findings referenced in this release can be found in the report at

BMO and BMO Financial Group are trade names used by Bank of Montreal.  Estate planning requires legal assistance which Bank of Montreal and its affiliates do not provide.  Please consult with your legal advisor. 

About the BMO Retirement Institute
The BMO Retirement Institute, a part of BMO Financial Group,  was established in 2008 in Canada to provide thought-provoking insight and financial strategies for individuals planning for, or currently in, their retirement years.

About BMO Financial Group
Established in 1817 as Bank of Montreal, BMO Financial Group is a highly-diversified North American financial services organization. With total assets of $538 billion as at January 31, 2012, and more than 47,000 employees, BMO Financial Group provides a broad range of retail banking, wealth management and investment banking products and solutions.

SOURCE BMO Financial Group