Your Next Big Thing: Boomer legacies

Written by Robert Maurin

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The only hard deadline in life is death. And as Canada’s 10 million baby boomers enter the latter stages of their lives, there’s growing opportunity to help them tackle necessary chores before it’s too late.

One of those is writing a will. Only half of Canadians have done so, and many of the wills that do exist are out of date. Wills and estate lawyer Les Kotzer, author of The Family War: Winning The Inheritance Battle, says a service that would take will-making out of the spooky legal stratosphere and make it more accessible could prove a hit. For a model, look to how Toronto-based ListenUP! Canada opened clinics in malls across Ontario to raise the profile and destigmatize the process of getting hearing aids and tests.

A related opportunity: hand-holding services for executors. “People don’t realize this: it’s not an honour to be an executor,” says Kotzer. “You are personally liable if you make mistakes.” Today’s wills are vastly more complex than in the Leave it to Beaver era, when all you had to do was sell the house and give the proceeds to the widow. Boomers will leave larger and more complicated assets, and more fractured families, than their predecessors; furthermore, 38% of respondents to a recent RBC Financial Group poll said that they’re worried they’ll encounter family disagreements if they agree to act as executor. Although firms such as trust companies provide executor services, again, a retail chain offering mumbo-jumbo-free help to executors could tap a big market.

For another possibility, consider that the boomers, who currently range in age from 42 to 60, are in or near their peak earning years. That’s driving 6% annual growth in charitable donations, which reached $8.9 billion in 2004. The federal government’s passage in July of Bill C13, which exempts charitable donations of securities from capital gains tax, will accelerate that. Boom times will leave charities even shorter of the professional management they so badly need: Boston-based The Bridgespan Group, a consultancy for non-profits, figures U.S. charities would have to hire half of all new MBAs for 10 years to close the gap. Entrepreneurs could lessen charities’ management burden by handling functions such as HR and accounting for them. Best placed will be firms specializing in outsourcing for charities, which are starting to appear in the U.S.

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