Do you need an estate plan?

Managing your finances raises a number of topics but none as tricky and potentially unpleasant as planning for your family and finances in the event that you pass away or become incapacitated. Understandably, these questions are often ignored by many—but don’t fall into the trap of avoiding these difficult matters. Good estate planning will help to make sure that your wishes are carried out, and your family and assets are well protected.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at the key areas that you should consider when designing your estate plan:

  • Choosing a guardian – One of the most important considerations is who you select to become the legal guardian of your children. This is a very personal and complex decision, and you will consider several unique factors depending on your circumstances, but your principal concerns might be how physically able the person is to look after your children, as well as such practical matters as how close they live to you and their personal and financial situation and stability.

  • Life insurance and trusts – Life insurance gives your family the financial security to continue their standard of living and fulfil their dreams in the event that you are unable to provide for them yourself. Life insurance payouts can be used in various ways, including paying off debts, paying for college education, or simply helping with general living costs.

 

A trust is a way of specifying how and when you wish to pass money and other resources to your children. It can be an excellent way of ensuring that their inheritance reaches them before the age of eighteen or twenty-one, unlike a court-controlled process, as you will stipulate who manages and distributes the funds.

·      Choosing someone to make decisions on your behalf

It is crucial to make sure that somebody trustworthy is nominated to manage and distribute your various assets according to your wishes. This executor can be anybody, though spouses, older children, or close friends are often common choices. Similarly, if you become too sick to make your own decisions about your finances or your family’s care, a health care directive and a power of attorney will give you peace of mind and go a long way towards protecting your assets.

Now that we understand the key areas that should be considered in estate planning, here are some of the important components or documents involved in the process:

·      Will, trusts, and beneficiary forms

Both a will and a trust should detail your assets and how you wish them to be distributed when you die, as well as assigning the guardians of your children. However, one benefit that a trust has over a will is that a trust does not have to go through probate prior to being executed, as well as the option of coming into effect before you pass away; it remains under your control and transfers the role of trustee to someone else when you decease.

 

Beneficiary forms are slightly different. They assign designated beneficiaries to specific financial accounts such as mortgages and bank accounts. As this information holds more legal weight than a will itself, it is crucial to regularly ensure that your beneficiaries are up to date.

 

·      Durable powers of attorney

The term power of attorney refers to the person, or persons, that you nominate to act on your behalf in the event that you are too ill to state or carry out your own wishes. There are various ways to implement this; you can choose specific individuals for particular roles, such as one person to look after your finances and another to make your healthcare decisions, or you can designate one person full power of attorney to manage all of your affairs.

 

·      A living will

Not to be confused with a last will and testament, a living will details the type of medical treatment that you wish if you were ever incapacitated. Along with a general or healthcare power of attorney (see above), this document is known as your advance health care directive, and it not only provides you with peace of mind that your medical wishes will be respected, but it also gives direction and support to your family when faced with difficult decisions about your care.

 

·      Letter of intent

This document is not legally binding and can offer a more personal touch alongside an official will or trust. As the letter is less formal and binding than other documents, many people use it to express their wishes about more personal aspects such as their requests for funeral arrangements, or even preferences and desires for how their family should be brought up.

As with any financial arrangement, changes over time, not only in process and legislation but in your own personal situation, mean that it is imperative to keep your estate planning strategy under review and regularly updated to ensure it’s fit for its purpose and accurately reflects your wishes. 

Estate Planning for Business Owners

Writing an estate plan is important if you own personal assets but is all the more crucial if you also own your own business. This is due to the additional business complexities that need to be addressed, including tax issues, business succession and how to handle bigger and more complex estates. Seeking professional help from an accountant, lawyer or financial advisor is an effective way of dealing with such complexities. As a starting point, ask yourself these seven key questions and, if you answer “no” to any of them, it may highlight an area that you need to take remedial action towards.

  • Have you made a contingency plan for what will happen to your business if you are incapacitated or die unexpectedly?
  • Have you and any co-owners of your business made a buy-sell agreement?
  • If so, is the buy-sell agreement funded by life insurance?
  • If you have decided that a family member will inherit your business when you die, have you provided other family members with assets of an equal value?
  • Have you appointed a successor to your business?
  • Are you making the most of the lifetime capital gains exemption ($835,714 in 2017) on your shares of the business, if you are a qualified small business?
  • Are you taking care to minimize any possible tax liability that may be payable by your estate in the event of your death?

Estate freezes

The process of freezing the value of your business at a particular date is an increasingly common way of protecting your estate from a large capital gains tax bill if your business increases in value. To achieve this, usually the shares in the business that have the highest growth potential are redistributed to others, often your children, meaning that they will be liable for the tax on any increase in their value in the future. In exchange, you will receive new shares allowing you to maintain control of the business with a key difference – the value of the shares is frozen so that your tax liability is lower and that of your estate when you die will also be reduced.

Passive Investment Income Limit

Morneau’s federal budget announced earlier this year informed us how the government will treat passive income in a Canadian Controlled Private Corporation. (CCPC) The government’s main concern was that under the current rules a “tax deferral advantage” exists since tax on active business income is usually lower than the top personal marginal tax rate. Therefore if the corporate funds were invested for a long period of time, shareholders might end up with more after-tax amount than if it was invested personally.

 

Limiting Access to the Small Business Tax Rate

A key objective of the budget is to decrease the small business limit for CCPCs with a set threshold of income generated from passive investments. This will apply to CCPCs with between $50,000 and $150,000 of investment income. It reduces the small business deduction by $5 for each $1 of investment income which falls over the threshold of $50,000 (also known as the adjusted aggregate investment income). This new regulation will go hand in hand with the current business limit reduction for taxable capital.

 

The time to act is now, since these changes will be effective January 1, 2019, a discussion and plan should be prioritized now, since 2018 will be the “prior year” of 2019. To avoid the reduction of income eligible for the small business tax rate, business owners need to minimize or keep the amount below $50,000 of the “adjusted aggregate investment income” (AAII) in 2018. 

 

We’ve listed some solutions on how to do this:

 

1)   Corporate Owned Insurance: Exempt life insurance does not produce passive investment income unless there is a disposition. Put a portion of the corporation’s passive investments into a life insurance policy and reduce passive investment income and limit the erosion of the small business limit. Insurance concepts:

●     Insured retirement program: Provide additional retirement funding through transferring excess corporate funds into whole life or universal life insurance. The funds inside the policy grow “tax free” to create significant cash value. At some point when there is a need for cash, the policy is pledged as collateral for a bank loan. The bank loan doesn’t need to be repaid until the life insured dies and the death benefit is used to repay the loan. Any remaining death benefit is paid out.

●     Estate bond: Transfer corporate wealth to the future generation by utilizing whole life or universal life insurance. Essentially replace taxable investment with life insurance, increase funds for a future generation upon death, reduce tax and create a strategy to move funds out of the corporation tax free (through the Capital Dividend Account.)

●     Corporate held Critical Illness with Return of Premium: Purchase corporate owned critical illness, since it doesn’t produce any investment income.

 

2)   Pay enough salary/dividends to maximize RRSP and TFSA Contributions: A salary of $145,722 will allow the max 2018 RRSP contribution is $26,230 (18% of $145,722). Make sure you also pay enough salary/dividend to maximize your annual $5,500 TFSA contribution.

3)   Individual Pension Plan (IPP): The corporation contributes to the IPP and income earned in the IPP doesn’t belong to the corporation. This should only be considered when the AAII is over $50,000.

4)   Deferred Capital Gains: Capital gains are 50% taxable and are only 50% included in the AAII.

 

Talk to us, we can help you figure out the best solution for your unique situation.

 

When and Why You Should Conduct an Insurance Audit

As our lives grow and change with variable circumstances, new additions, and job transitions, our needs for insurance will also evolve. Additionally, economic fluctuations and external circumstances that influence your insurance policy will need frequent re-evaluation to ensure that you are making the most appropriate and financially favorable decisions. Perhaps you aren’t sure whether you should conduct an insurance audit or not. The following scenarios are usually a good indication that you should thoroughly assess and review your current policy contract: 

  • Bringing new life into your family? A new baby may not only prompt you to adjust your beneficiary information, but it is likely to change or influence your coverage needs.
  • Changing jobs? Probationary periods may not provide the same level of disability or accident insurance.
  • Is your policy nearing the end of its term? Be sure to compare prices for new policies as they can sometimes be more affordable as compared to renewing the current plan.
  • Has your marital status changed? Your insurance policy will likely need updating to reflect such.

The specific type of insurance policy you carry as well as personal details certainly influence coverage and premium prices, so if any of the following factors apply to you, be sure to update your policy accordingly. You might be eligible for a rate reduction. 

  • Changes to your overall risk assessment like smoking cessation, dangerous hobbies, high risk profession etc.
  • If you have experienced improvements to a previously diagnosed health condition.
  • Do your policy’s investment options still fall in line with current market conditions?
  • Have you used your insurance policy as collateral for a loan? Once that loan is paid off, collateral status should be taken off the policy.

Insurance policies generated for business purposes should also be regularly reviewed to make sure the policy still offers adequate coverage to meet the needs of the company and includes the appropriate beneficiary information. With life happening so quickly, it can be easy to forget about keeping insurance policies up to date, however, major changes can have a profound impact on coverage and premiums. Be sure to conduct insurance audits often to ensure your policies are still meeting your needs. 

Contact us to see how we can help. 

Do you REALLY need life insurance?

You most likely do, but the more important question is, ‘What kind?’ Whether you’re a young professional starting out, a devoted parent or a successful CEO, securing a life insurance policy is probably one of the most important decisions you will have to make in your adult life. Most people would agree that having financial safety nets in place is a good way to make sure that your loved ones will be taken care of when you pass away. Insurance can also help support your financial obligations and even take care of your estate liabilities. The tricky part, however, is figuring out what kind of life insurance best suits your goals and needs.  This quick guide will help you decide what life insurance policy is best for you, depending on who needs to benefit from it and how long you’ll need it. 

Permanent or Term? 

Life insurance can be classified into two principal types: permanent or term. Both have different strengths and weaknesses, depending on what you aim to achieve with your life insurance policy. 

Term life insurance provides death benefits for a limited amount of time, usually for a fixed number of years. Let’s say you get a 30-year term. This means you’ll only pay for each year of those 30 years. If you die before the 30-year period, then your beneficiaries shall receive the death benefits they are entitled to. After the period, the insurance shall expire. You will no longer need to pay premiums, and your beneficiaries will no longer be entitled to any benefits. Term life insurance is right for you if you are:  

  • The family breadwinner. Death benefits will replace your income for the years that you will have been working, in order to support your family’s needs.
  • A stay-at-home parent. You can set your insurance policy term to cover the years that your child will need financial support, especially for things that you would normally provide as a stay-at-home parent, such as childcare services.
  • A divorced parent. Insurance can cover the cost of child support, and the term can be set depending on how long you need to make support payments.
  • A mortgagor. If you are a homeowner with a mortgage, you can set up your term insurance to cover the years that you have to make payments. This way, your family won’t have to worry about losing their home.
  • A debtor with a co-signed debt. If you have credit card debt or student loans, a term life insurance policy can cover your debt payments. The term can be set to run for the duration of the payments. 
  • A business owner. If you’re a business owner, you may need either a term or permanent life insurance, depending on your needs. If you’re primarily concerned with paying off business debts, then a term life insurance may be your best option. 

Unlike term life insurance, a permanent life insurance does not expire. This means that your beneficiaries can receive death benefits no matter when you die. Aside from death benefits, a permanent life insurance policy can also double as a savings plan. A certain portion of your premiums can build cash value, which you may “withdraw” or borrow for future needs.  You can do well with a permanent life insurance policy if you:  

  • …Have a special needs child. As a special needs child will most likely need support for health care and other expenses even as they enter adulthood. Your permanent life insurance can provide them with death benefits any time within their lifetime.
  • …Want to leave something for your loved ones. Regardless of your net worth, permanent life insurance will make sure that your beneficiaries receive what they are entitled to. If you have a high net worth, permanent life insurance can take care of estate taxes. Otherwise, they will still get even a small inheritance through death benefits.
  • …Want to make sure that your funeral expenses are covered. Final expense insurance can provide coverage for funeral expenses for smaller premiums.
  • …Have maximized your retirement plans. As permanent life insurance may also come with a savings component, this can also be used to help you out during retirement.
  • …Own a business. As mentioned earlier, business owners may need either permanent or term, depending on their needs. A permanent insurance policy can help pay off estate taxes, so that the successors can inherit the business worry-free.

Different people have different financial needs, so there is no one-sized-fits-all approach to choosing the right insurance policy for you. Talk to us now, and find out how a permanent or term life insurance can best give you security and peace of mind.

 

The Importance of a Buy Sell Agreement

Having a buy sell agreement is important business partners. A buy-sell agreement should outline the contingencies for different outcomes, trigger events and  be put in place to protect you. Often Buy-sell arrangements are also insured.

What are the trigger events for a buy-sell agreement?

  • Disability
  • Conflict
  • Debt
  • Retirement
  • Death

Contact us for a complimentary review.

Accessing Corporate Earnings

Accessing retained earnings in a tax efficient manner can be challenging, we identify several methods to gain access to your earnings.

Vitality

In the 1940’s, insurance companies realized women live longer than men, hence the introduction of gender specific rates. In the 1980’s, the same industry found that non-smokers lived longer than smokers, therefore the introduction of smoker rates. Now for the first time in Canada a policyholder holds the power in their hands (and on their wrist) to control their insurance premiums. Sabre Strategic Partners is proud to partner with Manulife in their very exciting launch of Manulife Vitality. See the video or connect with our team for more.

Life Insurance Opportunities

Major changes are coming to life insurance, if you’re looking to apply for life insurance or review your insurance needs, this is the best time to do it. The last significant changes made to life insurance were in 1982.

Sit down with us to do a review prior to the changes coming into affect.

Exempt Test Legislation

Major changes are coming to life insurance, if you’re looking to apply for life insurance or review your insurance needs, this is the best time to do it. The last significant changes made to life insurance were in 1982.

Sit down with us to do a review prior to the changes coming into affect.