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Estate Planning

Preparing your Heirs for Wealth

If you think your heirs are not quite old enough or prepared enough to discuss the wealth they will inherit on your death, you’re not alone. Unfortunately though, this way of thinking can leave your beneficiaries in a decision-making vacuum: an unnecessary predicament which can be avoided by facing your own mortality and making a plan.

If you have a will in place, great. A will, however, is only a fundamental first step, not a comprehensive plan, point out authors of the 2017 Wealth Transfer Report from RBC Wealth Management.

“One generation’s success at building wealth does not ensure the next generation’s ability to manage wealth responsibly, or provide effective stewardship for the future,” they write. “Knowing the value (alone) does little to prepare inheritors for managing the considerable responsibilities of wealth.” Overall, the report’s authors say the number of inheritors who’ve been prepared hovers at just one in three.

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Life Insurance and the Capital Dividend Account

Many business owners are unaware that corporate owned life insurance combined with the Capital Dividend Account (CDA) provides an opportunity to distribute corporate surplus on the death of a shareholder to the surviving shareholders or family members tax-free.

Income earned by a corporation and then distributed to a shareholder is subject to tax integration which results in the total tax paid between the two being approximately the same as if the shareholder earned the income directly. Integration also means that if a corporation is in receipt of funds which it received tax-free, then those funds should be tax free when distributed to the shareholder.

The Capital Dividend Account is a notional account which tracks these particular tax-free amounts accumulated by the corporation. It is not shown in accounting records or financial statements of the corporation.  If there is a balance in the CDA it may be shown in the notes section of the financial statements for information purposes only.

Generally, the tax-free amounts referred to, are the non-taxable portions of capital gains received by the corporation and the death benefit proceeds of life insurance policies where the corporation is the beneficiary.

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What the Wealthy Know about Life Insurance

If you have ever thought that life insurance was something you wouldn’t need after you reached a certain level of financial security, you might be interested in knowing why many wealthy individuals still carry large amounts of insurance.  Consider the following:

  • A life insurance advisor in California recently placed a $201 million dollar life insurance policy on the life of a tech industry billionaire;
  • Well known music executive David Geffen was life insured for $100 million;
  • Malcolm Forbes, owner of Forbes Magazine, was insured at the time of his death in 1990 for $70 million.

While life insurance is most often looked upon as a vehicle to protect ones family or business, the question that springs to mind is why would individuals with wealth need life insurance? 

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The Corporate Estate Transfer

If you are the owner of a successful company it is likely that you have retained profits or surplus cash in your corporation.  If this is the case, chances are also good that this invested surplus is exposed to a high rate of corporate income tax.  If this describes your company then you may be a candidate for the Corporate Estate Transfer.  This strategy provides tax sheltered growth as well as maximizing the estate value of your company upon your death.

What is a Corporate Estate Transfer?

The Corporate Estate Transfer is an arrangement in which the company purchases a tax exempt life insurance policy on the life of the shareholder using corporate funds that are not needed for immediate business purposes. In doing so, the transferred surplus grows tax-deferred while the death benefit of the life insurance policy increases the value to the estate when the shareholder dies.

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Boomer + Sandwich Generation + Club Sandwich + Boomerang = Financial Instability

The Sandwich Generation was a term coined by Dorothy Miller in 1981 to describe adult children who were “sandwiched” between their aging parents and their own maturing children.  There is even a term for those of us who are in our 50’s or 60’s with elderly parents, adult children and grandchildren – the Club Sandwich.   More recently, the Boomerang Generation (the estimated 29% of adults ranging in ages 25 to 34, who live with their parents), are adding to the financial pressures as Boomers head into retirement. It is estimated that by 2026, 1 in 5 Canadians will be older than 65. This means fewer adults to both fund and provide for elder care.  Today, it is likely that the average married couple will have more living parents than they do children.

What are the challenges?

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Do You Need Individual Life Insurance?

Canadians may need to rethink their risk management

In a recent study conducted by the Life Insurance and Market Research Association (LIMRA), it was reported that 61% of Canadians hold some form of life insurance.  Surprisingly, it also revealed that only 38% of Canadians own an individual life insurance contract.

In another study of middle class Canadians, Manulife reported that 79% had no individual disability insurance and 87% had no individual critical illness coverage.

What both of these studies conclude is that most Canadians rely heavily on their group benefits for their family’s insurance protection. 

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Taxation of Life Insurance – New Rules Offer a Window of Opportunity

Permanent life insurance, such as Whole Life or Universal Life, has long been accepted as a tax efficient way of accumulating cash for future needs.  Soon the amount of funds that can be tax sheltered within a life insurance policy will be reduced by new tax rules which take effect January 1, 2017.  These changes may make 2016 the best year to buy cash value life insurance.

The changes to the tax rules regarding life insurance have resulted in an update to the “exempt test” which measures how much cash value can accumulate in a policy before it becomes subject to income tax.

Highlights of the new rules and their effect

For Cash Value Life Insurance:

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Changes to the Taxation of Estates

Estate, trust and tax planners have long favoured testamentary trusts as vehicles to pass along assets to beneficiaries or heirs.   A testamentary trust is generally a trust or estate that is created the day a person dies.  Commonly, these trusts are established in a testator’s will.

A significant benefit to testamentary trusts had been that income earned and retained in the trust received the same graduated rate of income tax as an individual tax payer.  Unfortunately, under the terms of Bill C-43, after January 1, 2016, all income retained in the trust will now be taxed at the highest rate of tax applicable in the province in which the trust is resident.

There will be two exceptions to this new rule – The Graduated Rate Estate (GRE) and a Qualified Disability Trust (QDT).

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Estate Planning Tips for Real Estate Investors

For many Canadians the majority of their wealth is held in personally owned real estate. For most this will be limited to their principal residence, however, investment in recreational and real estate investment property also forms a substantial part of some estates. Due to the nature of real estate, it is important to utilize estate planning to realize optimum gain and minimize tax implications.

Key Considerations for Real Estate Investment

  • Real estate is not a qualifying investment for the purposes of the Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption.
  • Leaving taxable property to a spouse through a spousal rollover in the will defers the tax until the spouse sells the property or dies.
  • Apart from the principal residence, real estate often creates a need for liquidity due to capital gains, estate equalization, mortgage repayment or other considerations.
  • Professional advice is often required to select the most advantageous ownership structure (i.e. personal, trust, holding company).
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Estate Planning for Blended Families

 Avoid Disinheriting Your Children

In today’s family it is not unusual for spouses to enter the marriage with children from previous relationships.   Parents work hard at getting these children to functionally blend together to create a happy family environment.  Often overlooked is what happens on the death of one of the parents. In most cases special consideration for estate planning is needed to avoid relationship loss and possibly legal action.

Typically spouses leave everything to each other and when the surviving spouse dies, the remainder is divided amongst the children.  The problem? Even with the best of intentions, there is no guarantee that the surviving spouse will not remarry and inadvertently disinherit the deceased’s children.

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