Part 3 of 3 (For Families)
The third and final question for the family market turns the focus off yourself and on to the people that will be left behind when you die. If you haven’t been tracking through the first two posts in this series take a minute now to review where we’ve come from.
Question Three – Where do you want your money to go after you die?
This one seems obvious. The answers I receive most often focus around some version of “my family”, occasionally people will name a favourite charity. That’s all well and good and I never take issue with any answer people might give, it’s your money after all and whatever legacy you choose to leave is up to you. The answer I have never received however is; “I want to leave a large percentage of my life savings to the government.” The sad fact is that without proper planning that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
When it comes to your final estate your money will essentially be in one of four buckets. Registered Investments (RRSP/ RRIF), Non-Registered Investments, Real Estate and Cash. If you are married or in a common law relationship all your assets can transfer to the surviving spouse relatively smoothly and tax free. If however, you are unmarried, your spouse has predeceased you or you wish to transfer a portion of your assets to anyone other than your spouse on your passing, the government has stipulated some rules in terms of who can get what and whether or not there will be any taxes to pay first.
Quick disclaimer: I am neither an accountant, nor a lawyer so be sure to consult an expert in those fields first before you make any final decisions.
For the sake of argument let’s assume you have limited cash and your real estate is your primary residence. Let’s also assume that your non-registered investments are in the form of common stocks and your registered investments are in the form of mutual funds.
So, what happens when you die?
First, the executor of your estate will want to sell your house. No problem, the proceeds of that sale transfer to your heirs tax-free. It’s been said that your home is the only tax shelter you can live in. If there is any additional property, like a cottage or a rental home then those would generate a capital gains inclusion but that is beyond the scope of this article.
Next, the executor will want to liquidate the rest of your assets and transfer the resulting cash to your heirs. This is where it can get sticky and the government can really mess with what ultimately ends up in the hands of your heirs.
Your stocks will be sold at whatever the market rate is on that day. This will result in either a capital loss or a capital gain. Either way 50% will be considered income (or loss) on your final tax return. Depending on how long you’ve held the stock this could result in a significant increase to your annual income in your final year of life. Consider what a few shares of Amazon were worth even just 5 years ago vs today? The mutual funds in the RRSP/RRIF will also be sold but because you received a tax credit when you originally bought those investments 100% of the value of those assets will be added to your income regardless of whether they have gone up or down.
Now consider this, as of this writing income over approximately $215,000 in any given year is taxed in Ontario at 46.16%. It doesn’t take long for an individual with a $75,000 annual income and $150,000 in assets when they die to end up paying in excess of $100,000 or more in income tax on their final estate.
Have you picked your jaw up off the floor yet?
Now, there is a way we can fix that, or at least make somebody else pay the government so your heirs receive more of your estate. By using life insurance to create a fifth bucket of money you can transfer a portion of your assets to a participating, (tax advantaged) life insurance policy while you are living. Thereby reducing the taxable value of your estate and generating a payout to your heirs that is completely tax-free. In most cases we can offset a large portion, if not all, of the income tax that will come due on your final estate and preserve your wealth for the next generation.
This tactic works best when your assets are evenly distributed between registered and non-registered money so that the act of transferring funds to life insurance does not attract income tax while you are living. If that is not possible and you have to pull money from an RRSP to fund the life insurance policy, it’s still better to pay the tax gradually, while you are living, than to generate a massive tax bill on your final estate. This tactic also works well in the situation of a blended family when you are trying to make sure assets accumulated prior to the second marriage remain with the children of the first marriage.
Of course, this is just one possible scenario, there are many others. The bottom line is, where do you want your money to go after you die?
For more information or help with your financial plan contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or simply leave a comment below.