Category Archives: Financial Planning Solutions

Have you set aside money in your Will to go to your favourite charities?

Even if you’re still just thinking about it that’s fantastic!  But if you could guarantee that your charities receive a much larger gift using this same money – and remove potential headaches for your executors – would you consider doing that instead?

Giving through your Will – a public document that all can see – can present challenges that you might not have thought of.

DSCN5353For example, is there any chance that any of your beneficiaries may resent your charitable gifts because they feel that they deserve a bigger inheritance – especially if they have acted as your caregiver? It’s quite common that scenarios like this result in beneficiaries contesting philanthropic gifts made through a Will.

Such challenges can result in significant delays in settling your estate. This adds significant legal costs that reduce the size of the estate for all of your beneficiaries, including your charities. This can decrease the size of charitable tax receipts that you may be counting on to reduce estate taxes in order to leave more to all your beneficiaries.

Also, the anger and disagreements that often surround contested Wills often permanently fractures families.

 

Here are three simple and cost-free ways that ensure your charitable wishes remain intact.

  1. Give to your favourite charities while you are alive.Time-honoured estate planning strategies often involve reducing the potential size of your estate. If you can afford to give now, your estate will be smaller so will its taxes, fees and many potential headaches for your executor.
  2. Or if you are less than 80 years old, it’s often wise to use money you’ve set aside for your charities to buy a life insurance policy, naming your charities as its beneficiaries.

Life insurance allows anyone, even people of modest means, to give more.  In many cases, if you have normal health issues such as high blood pressure or cholesterol and they are effectively managed with medication, you are likely eligible to buy life insurance.  Finding out if you are insurable is actually a simple process.

When you choose a life insurance policy that grows in value over time you’ll get four important benefits without spending any more money:

  1. i) You can withdraw the growing cash value inside your policy anytime, just in case you need money sometime down the road.
  2. ii) The size of your charitable gifts increases over time so your charities can have a bigger impact on the causes close to your heart.

iii) Tax receipts to your estate also increase in value, helping to offset your potential estate income and capital gains taxes.

 

  1. iv) Growth in the value of life insurance policies is tax-free so you’ll give more, without spending more.

Because life insurance policies are private, and usually can’t be contested*, you won’t lose control over your charitable intentions. Even better, because your death benefit will go to your charitable beneficiaries outside of your Will, your charities will get your gifts much faster and with very little effort on the part of your executor.

DSCN5302

  1. If you don’t qualify for life insurance, consider transferring your intended gifts into investments with an insurance company. Such investments – including money market funds, GICs, segregated funds (the mutual funds of the insurance world) and annuities of any kind – are not considered part of your estate, which also makes your executor’s job easier. All your charities will receive the proceeds privately, quickly and unreduced by estate fees and probate taxes.

Now isn’t that something worth thinking about?

 

Note: To learn more about whether life insurance estate strategies are the right fit for your circumstances, you must consult with a licensed insurance professional. When using insurance strategies to multiply your generosity to charities, it’s ideal to consult an advisor who is well versed in maximizing the power of your charitable giving, while also reducing potential taxes and other challenges that your estate might incur.

 

Jack Bergmans, CFP

Best-selling author of
Ripple Effect: Growing your business through insurance and philanthropy  &
Multiplying Generosity: Creatively using insurance to increase legacy gifts

* Some exceptions

Advertisements

Should you switch some of your savings into guaranteed income for life plans if you don’t have a defined benefit plan?

As the Canadian postal workers union (CUPE) continues to negotiate with Canada Post over their contract and in particular the issue of phasing out of Defined Benefit (DB) plans in favour of Defined Contribution (DC) plans as was recently discussed on the CBC, I’ve been wondering why we’re not hearing  more about guaranteed retirement income solutions that are already a huge market for many  Canadians across the country who don’t have access to DB pensions.

In our practice we speak with many Canadians who have saved and/or are saving for retirement and find that most people have the common desire to have at minimum, a rock solid core retirement income that’s guaranteed to keep them in the lifestyle they prefer, for life. I would suspect that the postal workers union and their members probably have the same goals in mind.

From the outside looking in, the main problem for the corporation in this dispute appears to be that the  financial risks of DB plans are too much to take on and would make them uncompetitive with other delivery firms. So the compromise on offer is a simple DC plan that offers similar corporate financial support for workers but eliminates the corporate capital requirements required by existing pension regulations, plus it moves the all of the future retirement income risks away from the corporation and onto the employees.

Guaranteed income for life solutions that combine some of the DC plan attributes with some of the DB plan attributes such as these are often a good compromise that suits a majority of retirement income needs.

A few of the key differences between DB plans and some of the available guaranteed income plans such as with variable annuity plans also known as GMWBs are:

a) savers maintain access to their savings in the event they need the money.

b) plans can be portable when people change jobs.

c) some plans offer lifetime income that is based on deposits plus 4-5% during your savings years (or market value which ever is higher).

d) lifetime retirement income might not be indexed to inflation.

e) savers can choose from a wide variety of investments.

It’s also been our experience that clients who integrate guaranteed income solutions into their financial plans tend to do so for a variety of common reasons. These often include such things as:

a) peace of mind that comes from having a core part of retirement income guaranteed for life that’s above and beyond meagre CPP and Old Age Security (OAS) payments.

b) to create a passive and guaranteed supplemental income in addition to small or insufficient existing DB plans in order to ensure that anticipated lifetime income needs are met.

c) create a DB plan equivalent with savings found in RRSPs, RRIFs and DC plans to eliminate or reduce the need of taking on additional investment risks during savings years, years that savings are being drawn down for income and most importantly, during retirement risk zone years.

d) smooth out or eliminate years where personal retirement incomes are reduced by volatile markets and also eliminate the possibility of running out of money during retirement.

It’s also important to note that guaranteed for life income solutions are implemented on a case by case basis that depend on the specific needs and circumstances of groups, couples and individuals.

For more on this topic please contact Jack Bergmans CFP at Bequest Insurance.

Should you consider getting life insurance before the rules change on Jan 1 2017?

Life insurance is commonly thought of as a simple estate planning tool. Yet it can also make a very powerful investment tool due to its favourable tax treatment.

Deposits and cash growth in life insurance policies are generally tax-free within certain limits, as are death benefits, which makes life policies used as investments very valuable.

On January 1, 2017 the part of the Canadian Income Tax Act governing life insurance policies will be amended to more accurately reflect changes in mortality rates (people are now living longer). It will also place additional limits on life insurance deposit amounts considered tax exempt.

If you decide to take advantage of life insurance for investment purposes and estate planning before these tax changes take place, your life policies will be grandfathered and provide you with the ability to invest more money tax-free than life policies purchased in 2017 and beyond.

There are many situations whereby you should consider investing in life policies before December 31, 2016. A couple of key situations include:

  •  Your business is growing. Insurance taken out on the owners can create or strengthen succession plans to insure the business won’t suffer when key people are unable to continue working for any reason.
  •  You own properties whose value has grown beyond the capacity of your estate to cover estate tax obligations. It’s possible that capital gains taxes will not allow you to have your estate assets distributed in the way that you’d like. Life insurance can be purchased to cover big tax hits such as these, and allow you to leave more to loved ones and charities.

If you’ve already set aside specific funds to go to beneficiaries such as your spouse, grandkids, kids, community causes and charities, Bequest Insurance’s Generosity Multiplier™ can mobilize those funds to guarantee that your beneficiaries receive even more than you hoped, at no additional cost to you.

Rates of return on our Generosity Multiplier™ are based on age, and since none of us are getting any younger and tax changes are coming on January 1st, this could be the perfect time to contact Bequest Insurance to learn more about how you can reduce your taxes and leave more to meet your personal or business needs!

Should you buy prescribed annuities now to avoid 2017 tax increases?

Living longer than people in previous generations is great but more and more people are now worried about the possibility of outliving their savings. 

Because of this, guaranteed-for-life income solutions are becoming a vital investment component for many Canadians. 

Within the available choices of guaranteed-income solutions, prescribed annuities provide much higher annual take-home income than you’ll get from other typical guaranteed savings choices due to both their structure and the overlay of significant tax benefits. For example*:


A 60 year old in the 40% tax bracket using $100,000 in savings to provide income for life :

Scenario 1:    2% GIC is purchased

Gross Income: $2,000
Taxable amount: $2,000
Net Annual Income: $1,200

 

Scenario 2:     5% Prescribed Annuity purchased

Gross Income: $5,000
Taxable amount: $1,054  (if purchased in 2016)
Net Annual Income: $4,578 

*Please note that this example is for illustration purposes only.

Your annual taxable amount is set for life when you purchase prescribed annuities.  If this same 5% prescribed annuity is purchased in 2017 the taxable amount is expected to increase from $1,054 to $1,450. 

It's a balancing act!

It is also important to consider how various retirement income streams might lower or even eliminate your income tested government benefits such as your Old Age Security pension (OAS). For the 2015 taxation year OAS clawbacks begin when your total annual taxable amount (not your total income) exceeds $72,809.  OAS benefits are completely eliminated when your net income (including your OAS income benefit) is just over $117,000.

For many people,  increasing take-home income that’s earned from savings can end up being a bit of a balancing act that often includes tax-friendly income streams such as prescribed annuities. In fact, prescribed annuities are a very effective triple win for many people because they can provide higher incomes, lower income taxes and preserve as much as possible from income tested government pension plans.

You may now be asking yourself these questions:

  • How do prescribed annuities or other guaranteed-for-life income options work?
  • At my age what rate of return would I get on a prescribed annuity?
  • How is prescribed annuity income guaranteed and for how long?
  • How are my prescribed annuities valued for my estate, spouse and other beneficiaries when I die?
  • Are annuities suitable for me? Would they be suitable for my dependants?
  • Are there guaranteed income-for-life annuities that allow me to access my capital just in case I need it? 
  • Should I get prescribed annuities now to avoid tax increases coming in 2017?

As many of you already know, there’s no obligation when you reach out to us and we make every effort to answer these and any other questions you might have within one business day.


Best Regards



Jack

This is often a good time of year to review your financial goals.

This is often a good time of year to review your financial goals and needs.

The deadline for 2015 RRSP contributions this year is Monday Feb 29 2016.

Should you be contributing to RRSPs?  Some of the positives include that RRSPs reduce your income tax owing at the income tax rate that you pay. That also means that if you’re in the 30% tax bracket and you contribute $100, your real cost is only $70.

Money held within your RRSP’s and RRIF’s etc. grows tax free but is taxable at your personal income tax rate at the time you make withdrawals. Some things to consider can include what your expected rate of return is, how many years your investments will be sheltered and what your income tax rate might be when you take money out of the RRSP.

The maximum RRSP contribution limit for 2015 is $24,930 (based on your income in 2014), plus any unused deduction room you might have left over from previous years. Your 2014 notice of assessment should have these figures for you.

The start of a new year can be a good time to review your financial needs, ask a few pointed questions about how your plans will meet your future goals and also share any changes in your circumstances with your financial advisor.

Everyone knows that hope is not a plan so if you’re self funding your pension and RRSP’s or wish to provide yourself with an increased retirement income, have you considered investing in worry free savings that will provide you with a guaranteed income for life regardless of the markets or how long you live?

Do you have charitable gifts in your Will?

DSCF0608The great things that you wish to accomplish with charitable gifts in your Will may be affected by changes to Canadian tax rules in Bill C-43 that come into effect January 1, 2016.

The new rules are generally more advantageous to gifts in Wills than the existing framework. They allow executors to allocate charitable tax credits to the donor’s final tax return, the previous year’s return, and/or any of the first three years of estate returns. Also, charitable gifts will also be valued on the day the gift is received by the charity. This is a major change – previously, the gift was receipted based on its fair market value on the donor’s the date of death.

You should also know that the first three years of an estate are now called a Graduated Rate Estate, or GRE. This means that income taxes paid by an estate in it’s first three years are based on a graduated scale. After three years estate income is taxed at the highest marginal income tax rate.

Your estate may be impacted if your charitable gifts are distributed after the three year GRE period. If this happens, the charitable tax receipt can only be applied against that year’s estate tax return, and can’t be allocated retroactively to the tax returns of the deceased or any of the years of the GRE’s existence.

DSCN1861_2If you want to donate appreciated assets to charities, the capital gains tax exemption for gifted property will no longer be available to the estate after the three year GRE period. This may result in smaller settlements to all beneficiaries due to unintended additional income taxes owing by the estate.

In many circumstances, the new GRE will be a non-issue. However, it may become expensive if your estate is complex and takes more than three years to settle, since your estate can lose the advantages of the GRE. For example, this may happen when charitable gifts are delayed until your spouse dies, or where other entities are involved such as corporations or family businesses that may need more time to be settled or restructured. The possibility of challenges to the Will may be another concern.

DSCN2803In fact, anything that may delay an estate from winding up before the 3 year GRE period expires may become an unintended and expensive situation for an estate that expects to use charitable donation tax credits and other tax-friendly strategies available only to the GRE. If your valuable charitable tax credits are forced to go unused, this will almost certainly throw a wrench into your best-laid estate plans.

If nothing else, Bill C-43 is a compelling reason to get proper legal and financial advice on your circumstances today to determine whether any changes should be made to your Will and to your current investment strategies to ensure that all of your legacy intentions will be met tomorrow.

Recent market volatility and your investment savings

DSCN2923_2

This morning my wife Marlena asked me if we should be worried about the recent stock market activity that’s all over the news these past few days.

I reassured her that the vast majority of our retirement savings were carefully placed in products that offer guarantees that keep them immune to market swings.

When speaking with clients for the first time to determine the most appropriate choices for their own investment needs, my goal is also protect your own hard-earned savings against the effects of these negative market events

As my client, you learn that it’s important to establish a stable savings portfolio following sound practices such as having a proper asset mix of stocks and bonds based on your risk tolerance. Some financial institutions call this balanced approach ‘safe investing’.  Our work goes further, offering you more advanced and sophisticated levels of protection.  For example, choosing investments that historically have been able to recover very quickly from market downturns can often be critically important during both your savings and income years. Additionally, I am constantly monitoring your investments to ensure they continue to perform as anticipated, and always looking for new or better solutions that might fit your specific needs and keep your savings safe so you can use them when you need them.

Events such as the current market downturn can’t be predicted, but I offer all of my clients even more ways to protect their savings. Often that comes by choosing insured investment products that can provide a 100% guaranteed benefits on your capital, guarantees on savings growth, and/or contractual guarantees to provide you with an income for life that rides out these volatile markets.

Marlena was comforted when I reminded her that our own savings are 100% guaranteed and our income is contractually guaranteed for life.

Please feel free to contact me anytime if you have any questions or concerns about your current investment savings. If you know of anyone else who can benefit from this worry-free approach to their investments, I invite you to share my contact information with them.

 

Best Regards

Jack Bergmans 

Certified Financial Planner/ Founding Partner Life Insurance & Estate Consultant

Bequest Insurance

Phone: (416) 356-4511
Toll free: (888) 708-3134 Ext. 2

Can you afford long-term care insurance?

Will you have enough money to cover your health care costs when you’re older?

Are you worried that you may not have family or friends who can properly take care of you as you age? Do you wonder if your nest egg will cover your long-term care costs?

Many Canadians expect that the government will cover health care costs when they get older. Yet the reality is very different.

When it comes to government-subsidized home care or long-term care, only some basic care is covered by a patchwork of provincial services, leaving a good portion of long-term care costs to be paid by you. And these costs are on the rise, as the list of approved health care expenses gets shorter every year.

You may want to follow the lead of Mary and Sonil. This couple wants to live in their three-story Toronto house until they can’t handle the upkeep, or a decline in their health means they can’t deal with stairs and need help with personal care.

They don’t have kids to care for them in their old age, and they are concerned about the health problems running in both of their families that may manifest themselves later. So when they were 65 and still in decent health, Mary and Sonil gave themselves peace of mind by buying long-term care insurance. Their financial advisor explained that it’s better to buy this insurance before it’s needed, since it can be hard to get once health problems start occurring.

Their insurance will start to pay benefits if they need help with any two of these five everyday personal care activities:

  • bathing
  • dressing
  • eating
  • toileting (due to incontinence or mobility problems)
  • getting out of bed; transferring from bed/toilet to wheelchair

DSCN2047

When Mary and Sonil turned 75 they both were in fairly good health, but they didn’t have as much strength or energy as they once had. They were tired of shoveling snow, and gardening had become a literal pain in the neck. Their 80-year-old house needed more and more repairs, which was also cutting into their savings.

Some of their friends had moved into an attractive local retirement home and were loving it, so they decided to explore this option for themselves.

It would cost them $7,000 a month ($3,500 each) for a nice room, 3 meals a day served in a dining room, having access an on-site nurse, and a wide variety of daily activities and day trips to keep them active and engaged. Their costs would be about $84,000 a year, not including their telephone bill, and other purchases including clothing.

They shopped around and discovered that some retirement homes charged as little as $1,500 per person per month, but those had fewer activities and the food was more institutional. And they were shocked to learn that there are homes that cost upwards of $6,000 per person a month!

They researched the cost of hiring home care, and learned that charges range from $15 to $75 an hour. They knew that if they started needing more help, that would add up fast and negotiating the stairs would still be a problem.

They quickly realized that their government pensions and dwindling after-tax savings wouldn’t cover their costs. However, the sale of their home would free up about $600,000, which would certainly help.

Their advisor presented them with some options. If they invested all their money in safe investments like Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs), they’d only earn about 2% a year. The money from the sale of their home would run out in about 7-1/2 years if they moved into a retirement home. This would get them into their early eighties but then what? They may live into their nineties, or even top 100!

Placing savings in riskier investments such as mutual funds could bring higher rates of return, but could also potentially lose value from year to year, leading to an even swifter evaporation of their funds.

DSCN1417

Putting this risk into perspective, their advisor pointed out that if their savings drop by 25% in one year, they would need to earn 33% on their money the next year to make up the difference. If their investments dropped by 50%, they’d need to make 100% to make up the difference! Their savings would shrink even faster, because they would have to keep drawing up on the remaining funds to cover their expenses. Mary and Sonil agreed that this type of investment strategy was too risky.

Instead, they decided to purchase of a joint annuity with some of the proceeds from the sale of their house. It started providing them with an income that was contractually guaranteed and almost tax-free, which they would receive for the rest of their lives, even if they outlived the funds originally invested in the annuity. This provided them with a lot of comfort. Their second safety net was their long-term care insurance.

Mary and Sonil confidently moved into their first choice of retirement residence, and surrounded by friends, good food and a wide variety of activities, they knew that they had made a good choice, and could sleep well, knowing they could cover their costs and live in dignity.

DSCN1923

Is long-term care insurance right for you?

Long-term care insurance is often for people who prefer to know that their financial health care costs will be covered for life. It can also be for people who are passionate about leaving behind money to support friends, family and their favourite charities after they die because the thought of spending down their entire estate during their lifetime makes them uncomfortable.

Because the benefits paid from long-term care insurance can be indexed to inflation, everyone can find comfort in this insurance product.

Knowing that long-term health costs are taken care of also allows people to explore advanced tax-smart and creative ways to redirect some estate assets away from the taxman, but that’s a story for another blog, or a conversation you could have with your financial advisor.

What does long-term care insurance cost?

The cost of long-term care insurance varies with such things as your age (the younger you are, the lower the cost); health; what size of monthly payment you choose; and if you choose extras like inflation protection or lifetime coverage vs. payments over a fixed number of years.

In addition, insurance costs can vary depending on your health; family medical history; and your desire to leave a legacy for the people and causes you are passionate about, or simply your desire not spend down all your assets during your life just in case you need funds for a special reason.

To give you an idea of cost, Mary and Sonil, a healthy 65-year-old couple, paid this for their shared long-term care insurance plan:

Annual insurance premium:  $4,594.56/year ($382.88/month)

The benefits they’ll receive with this plan will be: $1,500/month ($18,000/year) indexed to inflation.

At age 80, Sonil had a serious fall. He now needs a wheelchair to get around, and requires much more intensive daily care. Sonil and Mary made the hard decision to move Sonil into a long-term care home. They were no longer required to pay premiums eligible on their long-term care policy, and started collecting benefits, which had risen to $2,019/month ($24,228/year).

In total, over the 15 years of contributing to their policy, they have paid $68,919.

If they had put this money into safe investments like GICs, the 2% a year in earnings would have resulted in a total savings of about $86,385 by age 80.

Although that might sound like a lot, Sonil’s payments on his private room are $2,439/month ($29,268/year). If Sonil was using these savings alone to pay his long-term care costs, he would run out of money in less than three years. As it is, between the money he receives from his pensions, his long-term care insurance, and a top-up from their annuity payments, Sonil and Mary don’t have to worry about covering Sonil’s health care costs or other living expenses.

Keep in mind that at age 80, the probability is quite high that the average person could benefit from long-term care insurance for five years or more. It’s clear that In the case of Mary and Sonil, their policy would more than pay for itself.

DSCN1372

Are you worried that long-term care costs may be out of reach when you need the care?

Here are a few solutions to covering long-term care costs:

  1. Buy long-term care insurance.
  2. If it makes sense, delay a move to a retirement home.
  3. If you need help taking care of your home, you can hire people to clean, shovel snow, do your gardening and cut your grass.
  4. If you need health care support, contact your local Community Care Access Centre. You may be eligible for a few hours of government-supported care a week.
  5. Because interest rates are currently very low, it may be advantageous to put some of your savings into a life annuity or similar guaranteed solutions for some or all of these reasons:
    i) Annuity income will be much higher than most other sources of guaranteed income today.
    ii) Life annuities generate a guaranteed income for life, even if you outlive your initial investment.
    iii) Increasing your income in this way can help pay for affordable individual or shared long-term care insurance and take away any worries you have of being able to pay for care you may need later in life.

Everyone’s situation is different but it’s certainly worth a look to see whether a long-term care insurance plan makes sense for you.

Will you be happy when you retire

If you are like most Canadians and don’t have a defined benefit pension plan and don’t have the financial capacity to self fund your retirement for your entire life you are probably going to run out of money at some random point in retirement.

Here’s a basic reason why. Let’s say you have $100,000 saved for retirement. You’ve invested in a basket of balanced medium risk mutual funds in a contribution pension plan at work and some RRSP funds at your bank.  You decide to retire at age 65. You convert your plans to a Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF) and take out  4% right away.  Then the stock market has a correction. Market corrections can’t be forecast but you can expect that if you’re retired for a couple of decades or more it’s bound to happen few times.

You had $96,000 left in your savings after your first withdrawal but the correction made it worth $80,000. So the next year, at age 66 you need to take out 4.17% of $80,000 leaving you with $76,664. (You must take out a minimum amount from your RRIF every year and that minimum increases until you’re 94 where it max’s out at 20% of the RRIF’s value per year).

To keep this example going, your savings don’t grow the next year because it’s a flat market. So now at age 67 you need to take out 4.35% leaving you with $73,329.

Age:  Starting Balance                         Savings Balance

65       $100,000                 – 4%          = $96,000

65       $96,000                   – 16.7%     = $80,000 (example market correction)

66       $80,000                   – 4.17%     = $76,664

67       $76,664                   – 4.35%     = $73,329

This is essentially what happened to most retirees savings in 2008 and 2009 and in  many cases the losses were much worse than this. It’s painfully obvious that if you are underfunded in retirement, to be financially happy depends on being lucky with good markets. Planning on luck in this case would mean that in three short years your nest egg would be down 26.7%!  Even worse,  the market has historically not been able to catch up to losses like these so at some point in retirement you’re going to either spend less than you need to or run short on money sooner than you’d like. It’s a treacherous spiral and anyone caught in this trap won’t be happy when they retire.

A good rule of thumb is that if the value of your assets can sustain you in the lifestyle you want to at least age 100 you’re probably going to be ok.  Keep in mind that new mortality tables indicate that our median lifespans are ever  increasing so the younger you are, the longer you’re likely to need to plan for.

If in your case you can’t see how you can self fund your retirement to at least age 100 you would be very wise to move some of your savings into pooled income solutions.  Pooled income solutions will give you a guaranteed income for life so you’ll never run out of money. These products are only offered by insurance companies and typically include such things as Variable Annuities and Annuities.

Variable Annuities are a solution that’s very popular with people who don’t have access to defined benefit plans. Variable Annuities can be described as self directed defined benefit pension plans and can be excellent solutions both during savings years and at retirement because you’ll know up-front the guaranteed minimum income you’ll receive for life. Variable annuities also give you the upside potential of mutual funds so over time your guaranteed income for life can ratchet upwards and  will be contractually locked in for the rest of your life. Joint accounts can be set up and you always have access to your money at any time, a great feature that’s bound to make you happy.

When you use savings that are not in RRSP’s or RRIF’s to buy an Annuity your income is almost all non-taxable so you’ll need significantly less upfront money than alternately deciding to take income from bonds or GICs (which are taxed at the very highest rate).  Often an annuity is used to bump up retirement income using only a portion of your savings because once you buy an annuity you no longer have access to that money. You decide what makes the most sense in your circumstances.

Also, at retirement age Annuities normally give you a much higher income than other guaranteed income products. If you outlive what you paid for your annuity, your income continues for the rest of your life anyway. You’ll be happy. If you don’t outlive your initial investment your beneficiaries will get what’s left over. It’s a very good deal.

Almost everyone will tell you that retirement isn’t all about money. There’s family, friends, activities, travel and everything else we’d like to get more involved with. Pooled income solutions give you a guaranteed financial foundation so no matter how stormy the weather gets, you know that your lights will always be on and there’s always going to be food on your table.

It’s not surprising then that in most cases,  switching some of your savings into guaranteed for life pooled income solutions is an ideal step you can take today to be on the road to be happy when you retire. Quite frankly, nothing beats comfort and peace of mind.

What really happens to your assets when you die?

With a few simple changes you can leave a lot more to your beneficiaries and pay much less in taxes when you die. 

Often the conversations we have with  clients leads to the inevitable question, “What happens to my assets when I die?”

Many people assume that upon death, all of their money will automatically go to their spouse, kids, place of worship and charities.

In our experience, the wills and personal finances of most people are not properly set up to realize these goals.

Often, it only takes a few simple changes to allow your bequest wishes to be much more valuable and effective, while making the handling of estate matters much simpler for your executor.

In this article I’ll explain a few examples of things that normally occur when someone dies that create some common problems and impediments, and how you can easily solve them.

Bluffs in Fog 05:03

Problem 1: You don’t have a will.

As in most places in North America, dying in Ontario without a will essentially means that your assets will flow in pre-set proportions to people and creditors the government deems to be ‘next in line’. If you want your entire estate to go to your spouse and kids, this will happen though maybe not in the proportions you imagine and only provided your debts don’t outweigh your assets. However, when a provincial trustee must step in to administer your estate, they deduct very high fees and probate taxes, which reduces the value of your estate and can also result in all kinds of other unforeseeable problems.  For example, your family home may need to be sold to pay these taxes and fees. Also, your estate is likely to be frozen and inaccessible for at least one year – or even many years depending on the complexity of your case. These common outcomes cause significant financial and emotional hardships on surviving family members who continue to rely on the proceeds of your estate.

If you are living common-law and die without a will, it’s extremely important to know that your rights as a married couple end immediately on your death. Your partner may be put in a position where they may not be able to claim any of your estate.

Solution 1: In almost all cases, directing your wishes through a will is a very inexpensive way to prevent many unwanted outcomes. Even though I am not a lawyer, this is very nearly always the first thing I recommend to my clients.

Problem 2: Heirs and creditors can challenge your will and reduce the size of inheritances and charitable gifts.

Even if you have a will, there are still many circumstances that can reduce the value of your estate, and obstruct your bequest intentions.  There are simple ways to set up your bequests to allow you to be completely sure that your bequest wishes are followed.

Let’s say you have set aside money to go specific beneficiaries including your children, grandchildren and a few charities. You have specified who will get what in your will.

However, probate taxes and fees, legal fees, and funds going to creditors will cut into your inheritances. Because money can do strange things to people, your children may challenge your choice of beneficiaries and even your charitable donations. Also, if you’ve not listed your charities by their formal legal name, charities of a similar name may each lay claim your donation. These common problems can tie up your estate for years.

You can make many simple and free changes that will make your estate much more valuable, and free from any contentious tug-of-wars over your money.

Solution 2: Another way to eliminate any challenges is to give your community-based legacy gifts through charitable Community Foundations. Many offer you the attractive option of making a charitable contribution now and deciding later which causes will get your money, and how much each will receive. You can make as many tax-deductible donations through Foundations such as these as you like, and they will then follow your wishes and efficiently dispense your funds upon your death.

Solution 3: If you are sure you won’t need the money you’ve set aside, consider giving it to your beneficiaries while you’re alive. This will reduce the size of your estate and therefore probate taxes and fees. When your beneficiaries are charities, gifts made while you are alive produce tax credits that you can use to your reduce current taxes – and unused credits can be carried forward for as much as five years. Lower taxes now will allow you to give more to all of your beneficiaries.

Solution 4: If you have income that is more than you spend, consider making significant ongoing contributions to your favourite charities. The charitable tax credits can significantly help to offset your current taxes.

Solution 5: If there is a chance you may need the money you’ve set aside as you grow older, or you want control over changing your beneficiaries in the future, or you want to completely avoid probate taxes, fees and delays, consider moving your funds from bank savings accounts, mutual funds or money market funds into identical products offered by insurance companies. By doing so, you can directly assign beneficiaries and easily change them at any time, without incurring any costs as you would to change your will. Then when you die, these funds will pass to your beneficiaries outside of your estate. Your beneficiaries will receive the funds within three to four weeks of the insurance company receiving your death certificate.

In addition, some insurance companies will provide a 100% guarantee on your principal so you’ll know for sure that your investments and subsequently your bequests won’t be negatively affected by market fluctuations.

Even better, leaving your bequests in this way removes this money from your estate (just as if you gave it away during your lifetime), which will lower your estate’s probate taxes and fees on remaining assets in your estate. Lower taxes means you will leave even more to your beneficiaries!

East Sooke Prov Park 7

Solution 6: Purchasing a life insurance policy with money that’s already set side for beneficiaries is a simple way to significantly multiply what you’ll bequest to these beneficiaries. You simply use the money that’s set aside to pay your life insurance premiums. In particular, if you want to leave money to charities, it is often to your advantage to pay your policy off in one lump sum or over a few years.

As it is with any insurance product, your bequests will go to your beneficiaries tax free and outside of the estate. They will flow quickly and directly to your beneficiaries, usually within three to four weeks of the insurance company receiving your death certificate. No hold-ups, no taxes, no hassles.

These are some simple options available to you that will allow you to have complete control over what happens when you die. If you’d like to discuss how you can easily create a more valuable estate that reflects your personal circumstances, please feel free to contact me anytime.

Next: Including your favourite charities as your beneficiaries is not only a good thing to do but can help significantly reduce the taxes owing on your estate.