Our hometown of London was a proud host of this year’s Juno awards, and let me tell you, it was one heck of a party! I wasn’t able to be there, but my friend Karmen was – right in the front row where she took this photo of host Sarah McLachlan. As a former professional musician and Music Professor, it brought back a lot of memories, and reminded me that not everything in our estate is money…
As I’m writing this newsletter, the City of London is coming down from a high from hosting the 2019 Juno awards. It’s pretty much all anyone can talk about around our office at Innovation Works. While I couldn’t attend the awards, music has been a major part of my life from a very young age. My wife Bridget and I actually met the first day of university at a mixer for Western University Music students. Years later, I completed a master’s degree at the University of Michigan, and then went on to go ABD (All but dissertation) towards a PhD in Music Psychology, and was teaching at both Western University and the University of Windsor.
Unfortunately, in the 90’s, the provincial government was not very friendly to arts, nor education, hence why I ended up becoming a Financial Planner. This career seemed like a better long-term prospect as local music gigs dried up and I had to spend more and more time touring. The price of being a musician was never seeing your family while touring endlessly to earn a living– something that was a non-negotiable for me.
What the Junos can teach us about estate planning
Relatively few musicians make a lot of money in Canada. By industry standards, 20 years ago I was making a fortune with a $40,000 income – but that was still vastly below the average working income in Canada. It takes years of hard work to become an “overnight” success and earn the big incomes some of the most famous artists command.
In recent years, the true value in the long term for musicians is in the intellectual property rights in their art, as well as the digital online platforms that they develop through the years. While we don’t think of these as “assets” in the monetary sense, those assets, and their control, can be significant in financial terms. It can be hard to put a value on these things, but increasingly for them, as well as you and I, our digital assets are an important consideration when planning an estate. Don’t believe me? Go back and read this newsletter that I wrote last year on the estate issues that both Prince and Aretha Franklin’s heirs are facing.
Digital Media, Social Media and estates
As we become a more digital society, it’s important that your will is updated to reflect the progress of technology. You might not have the same digital assets as the musicians performing at the Junos, but I can guarantee you that you have more than you may think.
Just over 15 years ago, Facebook did not exist. Today, statistically speaking, you probably have a significant portion of your life on Facebook. For many of us, it has become the gateway to friendships and communications. Ask yourself this: if you passed away – what happens to all that data? Who will be able to access your accounts? My wake-up call to the importance of this came late last year when a social media platform prompted me to wish my deceased friend a Happy Birthday to help celebrate his big day. To say it was jarring, would be a massive understatement.
Facebook and other sites are slowly starting to provide ways to control your information after you are gone, but the laws in Canada are moving slowly at no where near at the same pace. If you have redone a Will in the last 2 years, your lawyer probably has added a clause about digital assets. It’s time to dust off your Will and look to see if it gives your executor the power to control these after you are gone.
Other non-tangible assets (like music copyrights, art, etc.) are all important to contemplate as well. Some of these items are monetizable and might even have tax consequences after you pass away. As technology evolves, we’re going to have to be much more aware and creative with our estate planning to ensure our virtual assets are protected. It’s a smart thing to do – regardless if you won a Juno last month.
If you’ve already done this to your Will, go ahead and Sing a Happy Song, be a Snowbird on Echo Beach, and rise up to meet the Eyes of a Stranger. If not, even though It’s Complicated, call your lawyer, (or Call Me Maybe), so you can say There’s Nothing Holding Me Back, and your family Won’t Forget you when You’re gone and take care of it today.