The “Great Intergenerational Wealth Transfer” could be challenging for many Canadians and their heirs. As more then half of them don’t have a will1 – it could leave Clients’ family members in a bind. Dying without a will means a government-mandated formula is used to distribute their assets. That also could mean important people in their life could be left with less – or left out completely.

You have the opportunity to start a conversation with your Clients about inheritance planning. That includes those in the high-net-worth group. Now is the time to find out if they’ve started estate discussions with their heirs.

Not always an easy conversation, but an important one

One in four Canadians feel money is a taboo topic.2 You can help Clients overcome their fears about their heirs' ability to manage their money. One way is to educate the next generation on how to manage their finances.

Building relationships with Clients’ heirs is a win-win:

  • Achieve peace of mind that their legacy plans are in place,
  • You’re setting the stage to bring new Clients into your business.

Three ways that the ‘legacy’ discussion can bring your Clients peace of mind

1. Family harmony

You can be the trusted advisor who helps protect family harmony. Start estate planning conversations among family members as soon as possible. It’s better when older Clients are still healthy and family members can make rational, not emotional decisions. This can help avoid making decisions in a time of crisis when emotions are high. Ironing out estate planning issues now and sharing Clients’ wishes with their heirs avoids difficulties later. 

2. Privacy and control

You can help decide the future of a Client’s legacy. For example, insurance-based investments have advantages:

  • Beneficiary designation – can be changed when necessary, without engaging a lawyer and paying fees. The death benefit passes directly to the beneficiary easier and less expensively.
  • Can avoid costly and complicated probate and public records.

3. Competency

Heirs may be concerned about their parents making poor financial decisions based on emotions or tainted by mental incapacity. It’s important for you to get involved in Clients’ legacy plans now. It will help them protect assets and manage longevity risk.

Canadians are living longer – a lot longer:

  • Canada has nearly 13,500 centenarians - up 40% from 2018.3
  • The average life expectancy for a 65-year-old man is 84.5 years. For a 65-year-old woman, it is 87.2 years.4
  • Many Canadians will live past age 90, meaning they may need decades more of retirement income. Clients may want to plan to age 100 or even perhaps beyond that age

Did you know?

  • By 2046, the population aged 85 and over could triple in Canada. It could reach nearly 2.5 million people.5
  • More than 5.3 million Canadians are in the age group of 55 to 64 years old, as of 2022.6

That’s a huge number of the last wave of baby boomers moving into retirement and retiring for longer than previously anticipated.

Guarantees against market volatility

Clients who are in, or approaching retirement, may be concerned about running out of money.

Some of them may be thinking about securing guaranteed retirement income for as long as they live. You can help them achieve lifetime financial security that lasts through their retirement.

The period of five years before and five years after retirement is what we call the “retirement-risk zone.” As retirement becomes a reality to many, it’s important to:

  • Discuss locking in some of the gains they may have.
  • Identify opportunities to lock in some guaranteed income, which we know is important to them.
  • Prepare Clients, so that if markets do turn, they’re not retiring at the wrong time and redeeming when markets are down.

Investors may worry about the risk of market volatility that could decrease the value of their assets. Some may think that a guaranteed income is more important than the performance of their investments.

Retirement income challenges

One source of protected, guaranteed income is disappearing. The number of companies offering a defined benefit (DB) plan is decreasing every year.7

Retirees who don’t have a DB plan may have to rely even more heavily on personal savings and defined contribution pension plans to generate retirement income.

But there’s another challenge:

  • In 2021, less than 23% of Canadians contributed to a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP).8
  • In Canada, for the 2020 tax year, more than 16 million Canadians had a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA). Of this, only 8.8% had contributed the maximum allowable amount.9

So, they leave money on the table. This combination of a savings deficit and our aging population presents an opportunity.

Wealth products with guarantees

One of the Sun Life Guaranteed Investment Funds (GIFs) contracts that can provide lifetime guaranteed income is Sun GIF Solutions – Income Series. It can help give Clients peace of mind with the certainty of guaranteed income for life. Clients can lock in current or future retirement income based on the deposit amount and current interest rates – giving them the safety and guarantees they want.

Other advantages of the Sun GIF Solutions contract are flexibility and efficiency. You could take Clients through life stages with:

With the simplicity of the three in on contract structure, moving money from one series to another in an existing contract is as simple as switching to a different fund code.10 They don’t have to fill out an application for a new product.

Clients moving money into Sun GIF Solutions – Estate Series take advantage of features to help them protect their legacy:

  • Pays the 100% death benefit guarantee at the greater of the death benefit guarantee or the market value at death.
  • The death benefit guarantee protects the value of the premiums paid on death, less a reduction for any withdrawals.

The death benefit guarantee can reset automatically each year until age 80, locking in any potential market growth. These resets will be to the current market value or the previous death benefit guarantee (reset), whichever is higher.

The legacy planning that comes from beneficiary designations through segregated fund contracts is a great way to start a conversation. Ask Clients these questions to get start the conversation:11

  • Do your heirs understand your wishes, and are you confident they’ll carry them out properly?
  • Who do you want to receive your assets when you die?
  • How do you want them to receive those assets? All at once, at defined intervals, or with a combination, for example, in a lump sum, a payout annuity, or a combination of a lump sum and a payout annuity?
  • Do you want to distribute inheritances differently among your family members, which can happen in a blended family situation?
  • Do you want to contribute to a charitable organization or special fund, and keep this contribution private?

After you have initiated a discussion and truly understand your Clients’ wishes, then you can explain the benefits of segregated fund contracts.

These can be an important part of your Clients’ retirement and legacy plans. The intergenerational wealth transfer, aging population, and desire for guaranteed retirement income are opportunities to:

  • Help Clients achieve lifetime financial security and plan for their legacies.
  • Increase your engagement with Clients, their children, and their grandchildren, potentially growing your business.

Advisors, if you want to learn more about retirement and legacy planning strategies, contact a member of our Sun Life Wealth Sales team. For more information about wealth products with guarantees and the benefits of insurance protection, visit

1  Canadians and their Money: Key Findings from the 2019 Canadian Financial Capability Survey from Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, most recent 5-year update in 2019.

2 FP Canada Discomfort Study, 2020.

3Canada's population estimates: Age and sex, July 1, 2022, Statistics Canada, 2022

4 Life expectancy and other elements of the complete life table, three-year estimates, Canada, all provinces except Prince Edward Island, Statistics Canada, 2022

5 A portrait of Canada’s growing population aged 85 and older from the 2021 Census, Statistics Canada, 2022.

6 Population estimates on July 1st, by age and sex, Statistics Canada, 2022.

7 Registered Pension Plans (RPPs), active members and market value of assets by contributory status, Statistics Canada, 2023

Registered retirement savings plan contributions, 2021, Statistics Canada, 2023

9 Tax-Free Savings Account 2022 Statistics (2020 contribution year), Statistics Canada

10 Switching between non-registered series may result in a taxable disposition.

11 Note that the Clients’ entire estates likely wouldn’t be invested in a segregated fund contract. They’d have other investments, bank accounts, real estate, etc. that will also make up the estate.