Do you need an estate plan?

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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. 

2024 Federal Budget Highlights

On April 16, 2024, Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Chrystia Freeland, presented the federal budget.

While there are no changes to federal personal or corporate tax rates, the budget introduces:

  • An increase in the portion of capital gains subject to tax, rising from 50% to 66.67%, starting June 25, 2024. However, individual gains up to $250,000 annually will retain the 50% rate.

  • The lifetime exemption limit for capital gains has been raised to $1.25 million. Additionally, a new one-third inclusion rate is set for up to $2 million in capital gains for entrepreneurs.

  • The budget confirms the alternative minimum tax changes planned for January 1, 2024 but lessens their impact on charitable contributions.

  • This year’s budget emphasizes making housing more affordable. It provides incentives for building rental properties specifically designed for long-term tenants.

  • Introduces new support measures to aid people buying their first homes.

  • Costs for specific patents and tech equipment and software can now be written off immediately.

  • Canada carbon rebate for small business.

Capital Gains Inclusion Rate

The budget suggests raising the inclusion rate on capital gains after June 24, 2024:

  • Corporations and trusts, from 50% to 66.67%.

  • Individuals, on capital gains over $250,000 annually, also from 50% to 66.67%.

For individuals, the $250,000 annual threshold that applies to net capital gains—the amount remaining after offsetting any capital losses. This includes gains acquired directly by an individual or indirectly through entities such as partnerships or trusts. Essentially, this threshold acts as a deductible, considering various factors to determine the net gains eligible for the increased capital gains tax rate.

Individuals in the highest income bracket, who earn above the top marginal tax rate threshold, will face a higher tax rate on capital gains exceeding $250,000 due to these changes. Furthermore, the budget modifies the tax deduction for employee stock options to align with the updated capital gains taxation rates yet maintains the initial 50% deduction for the first $250,000 in gains. Regarding previously incurred financial losses, the budget plans to adjust the value of these net capital losses from past years so that they are consistent with the current gains, upholding the uniformity with the new inclusion rate.

The budget outlines transitional rules for the upcoming tax year that straddles the implementation date of the new capital gains rates. If the tax year begins before June 25, 2024, but ends afterward, capital gains realized before June 25 will be taxed at the existing rate of 50%. However, gains accrued after June 24, 2024, will be subject to the increased rate of 66.67%. It’s important to note that the new $250,000 threshold for higher tax rates will only apply to gains made after June 24.

Consequently, for individuals earning capital gains beyond the $250,000 threshold and who fall into the highest income tax bracket, new rates will be effective as outlined in the table below. Specifically, this pertains to individuals with taxable incomes exceeding $355,845 in Alberta, $252,752 in British Columbia, $1,103,478 in Newfoundland and Labrador, $500,000 in the Yukon, and $246,752 in all other regions.

Further details and guidance on these new rules are expected to be provided in future announcements.

Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption

The budget proposes raising the Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption (LCGE) for qualified capital gains from $1,016,836 to $1.25 million, effective for sales made after June 24, 2024. Additionally, the exemption will once again be adjusted for inflation starting in 2026. This change aims to increase the tax benefits for individuals selling certain types of property, such as small business shares or farming and fishing assets.

Canadian Entrepreneurs’ Incentive

The Canadian Entrepreneurs’ Incentive is a new tax measure which provides a reduced inclusion rate on capital gains from the disposition of qualifying small business shares.

Qualifications for the incentive include:

  • Shares must be of a small business corporation directly owned by an individual.

  • For 24 months before selling, over half the corporation’s assets must be actively used in a Canadian business or be certain connected assets.

  • The seller needs to be a founding investor who held the shares for at least five years.

  • The seller must have been actively involved in the business continuously for five years.

  • The seller must have owned a significant voting share throughout the subscription period.

  • The incentive does not apply to shares linked to professional services, financial, real estate, hospitality, arts, entertainment, or personal care services sectors.

  • The shares must have been acquired at their fair market value.

  • The incentive allows for a reduced inclusion rate of 1/3 for up to $2 million in capital gains during an individual’s lifetime, with this limit being phased in over 10 years.

This measure will apply to dispositions after December 31, 2024.

Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)

The 2023 budget included updates to the AMT, with proposed changes outlined in the summer of 2023. The budget suggests revising the charitable donation tax credit for AMT calculations, increasing the claimable amount from 50% to 80%.

Further proposed changes to the AMT include:

  • Permitting deductions for the Guaranteed Income Supplement, social assistance, and workers’ compensation benefits.

  • Exempting employee ownership trusts (EOTs) entirely from AMT.

  • Allowing certain tax credits, like federal political contributions, investment tax credits (ITCs), and labour-sponsored funds tax credit, to be carried forward if disallowed under the AMT.

These changes would take effect for tax years beginning after December 31, 2023. Additionally, the budget proposes technical amendments that would exempt specific trusts benefiting Indigenous groups from the AMT.

Employee Ownership Trust (EOT) Tax Exemption

The budget proposes a tax exemption on up to $10 million in capital gains for individuals selling their businesses to an EOT if certain criteria are met:

  • Sale of shares must be from a non-professional corporation.

  • The seller, or their spouse or common-law partner, must have been actively involved in the business for at least two years prior to the sale.

  • The business shares must have been solely owned by the seller or a related person or partnership for two years before the sale, and mainly used in active business.

  • At least 90% of the EOT’s beneficiaries must be Canadian residents after the sale.

  • If multiple sellers are involved, they must jointly decide how to divide the $10 million exemption

  • If the EOT doesn’t maintain its status or if the business assets used in active business drop below 50% at any point within 36 months after the sale, the tax exemption may be revoked.

  • For Alternative Minimum Tax purposes, the exempted gains will face a 30% inclusion rate.

  • The normal reassessment period for the exemption is extended by three years.

  • The measure now also covers the sale of shares to a worker cooperative corporation.

This exemption is valid for sales occurring from January 1, 2024, to December 31, 2026.

Home Buyers Plan (HBP)

The budget proposes enhancements to the HBP for 2024 and beyond, effective for withdrawals after April 16, 2024. These include:

  • Raising the RRSP withdrawal limit from $35,000 to $60,000 to support first-time homebuyers and purchases for those with disabilities.

  • Extending the grace period before repayment starts from two to five years for withdrawals made between January 1, 2022, and December 31, 2025, deferring the start of the repayment period and thereby providing new homeowners additional time before they need to commence repayments

Interest Deductions and Purpose-Built Rental Housing

The budget proposes a selective exemption from the Excessive Interest and Financing Expenses Limitation (EIFEL) rules for certain interest and financing expenses related to arm’s length financing. This exemption is for the construction or purchase of eligible purpose-built rental housing in Canada and applies to expenses incurred before January 1, 2036. To qualify, the housing must be a residential complex with either at least four private apartment units, each with its own kitchen, bathroom, and living areas, or 10 private rooms or suites. Additionally, at least 90% of the units must be designated for long-term rental. This exemption will be effective for tax years starting on or after October 1, 2023, in line with the broader EIFEL regulations.

Accelerated Capital Cost Allowance (CCA) – Purpose built rental housing

The budget introduces an accelerated CCA of 10% for new rental projects that start construction between April 16, 2024, and December 31, 2030, and are completed by December 31, 2035. This accelerated depreciation applies to projects that convert commercial properties into residential complexes or expand existing residential buildings that meet specific criteria under the EIFEL rules. However, it does not cover renovations to existing residential complexes.

Additionally, these investments will benefit from the Accelerated Investment Incentive, which allows for immediate depreciation deductions for properties put into use before 2028. Starting in 2028, the regular depreciation rules, including the half-year rule, will apply.

Accelerated Capital Cost Allowance (CCA)- Productivity-enhancing assets

The budget introduces immediate expensing for newly acquired properties that become operational between April 16, 2024, and December 31, 2026. This applies to specific categories such as:

  • Class 44- Patents and rights to patented information

  • Class 46- Data network infrastructure and related software

  • Class 50- General electronic data-processing equipment and software

Properties that are put into use between 2027 and 2028 will continue to benefit from the Accelerated Investment Incentive.

To qualify for this accelerated depreciation, the property must not have been previously owned by the taxpayer or someone closely connected to them, and it must not have been received as part of a tax-deferred deal. Also, if a tax year is shorter, the depreciation will be adjusted accordingly and will not carry over to the next year.

Canada Carbon Rebate for Small Businesses

The budget introduces a Canada Carbon Rebate for small businesses, offering a new refundable tax credit automatically. To be eligible, a Canadian-controlled private corporation must:

  • File a tax return for its 2023 tax year by July 15, 2024, for the fuel charge years from 2019-20 to 2023-24. For subsequent fuel charge years, it must file a tax return for the tax year that ends within that fuel charge year.

  • Employ 499 or fewer people across Canada during the year that corresponds with the fuel charge year.

The amount of the tax credit for each eligible business will depend on:

  • The province where the company had employees during the fuel charge year.

  • The number of employees in that province multiplied by a rate set by the Minister of Finance for that year.

  • The CRA will automatically calculate and issue the tax credit to qualifying businesses.

We can help!

Wondering how this year’s budget will impact your finances or your business? We can help – give us a call today!

Insured Retirement Program

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There are a number of mechanisms available for individuals to save in a tax-efficient manner for their retirement – from employer-sponsored pension plans to government plans, RRSPs (registered retirement savings plan) or TFSAs (tax free savings account). But, for those who earn a higher income and wish to contribute more to their pension savings than they can benefit from under the plans which are subject to annual caps, options can be limited. The insured retirement program is an effective way to bridge the retirement savings gap for such individuals in a cost-effective way.

Who is the insured retirement program best suited to?

  • Individuals who already contribute the maximum allowable amounts to both RRSPs and employer-sponsored pension plans but want to save more for their retirement are ideal candidates for this program.

  • Individuals at least fifteen years away from retirement so they can accumulate enough funds inside their life insurance policy for collateralization.

  • Individuals that are comfortable with the concept of borrowing.

How does the insured retirement program work?

This program works with the concept of collateralization in the following way:

  • Individual takes out a universal life (or eligible whole life) insurance policy and subsequently makes sizable cash deposits into it. These deposits grow within the policy on a tax-sheltered basis providing that the funds remain in the policy and are within the maximum allowable limit.

  • Upon the retirement of the policyowner, the funds within the policy may be used as collateral in order to take out a loan.

  • This loan can provide valuable cash for the retiree, in order to purchase an annuity or to use as income, via a series of short loans.

  • When the retiree dies, the loan is repaid and the remaining balance can be distributed among their beneficiaries.

Are there any pitfalls associated with the program?

As with all investment strategies, there are some risks. Namely, in this case, the fact that the program involves incurring a debt, borrowing funds and interest rate changes means that investors need to be comfortable with the unlikely but possible fact that the bank calls the loan or that changes in tax rules negatively impact them.

The insured retirement program can be smart way for high earners to maximize their retirement income in a tax effective manner. Contact us today to learn more about this opportunity and allow us to work in partnership with you to understand your unique needs and requirements and create a retirement strategy that works for you.

Financial Advice for Business Owners

We can help you determine where you are today financially and where you want to go. We can provide you guidance on how to reach your short, medium and long term financial goals.

Why work with us?

  • Worry less about money and gain control.

  • Organize your finances.

  • Prioritize your goals.

  • Focus on the big picture.

  • Save money to reach your goals.

What can we help you with?

We can help you with accumulation and protection

Accumulation:

  • Cash Management – Savings and Debt

  • Tax Planning

  • Investments

Protection:

  • Insurance Planning

  • Health Insurance

  • Estate Planning

How do you start?

  • Establish and define the financial advisor-client relationship.

  • Gather information about current financial situation and goals including lifestyle goals.

  • Analyze and evaluate current financial status.

  • Develop and present strategies and solutions to achieve goals.

  • Implement recommendations.

  • Monitor and review recommendations. Adjust if necessary.

Next steps…

  • Talk to us about helping you get your finances in order so you can achieve your lifestyle and financial goals.

  • Feel confident in knowing you have a plan to get to your goals.

10 Essential Decisions for Business Owners

10 Essential Decisions for Business Owners

Business owners are busy… they are busy running a successful business, wearing lots of hats and making a ton of decisions. We’ve put together a list of 10 essential decisions for every business owner to consider; from corporate structure to retirement and succession planning:

  • Best structure for your business (ex. Sole Proprietor, Corporation, Partnership)

  • Reduce taxes

  • What to do with surplus cash

  • Build employee loyalty

  • Reduce risk

  • Deal with the unexpected

  • Retire from your business

  • Sell your business

  • Keep your business in the family

  • What to do when you’re retired

Financial advisors are uniquely positioned to help business owners, talk to us about your situation and we can provide the guidance you need.

Why Life Insurance Should Be Part Of Your Estate Planning

Why Life Insurance Should Be Part Of Your Estate Planning

You’ve worked hard and managed your money carefully throughout your life. So rest easy knowing that you will have more than enough assets to fulfill your needs during your retirement years.

You also need to think beyond your retirement years and consider what will happen to your assets after your death. For example, it is essential to consider whether your assets could result in tax liabilities for your heirs.

Generally, there are three types of assets during estate planning:

  1. Capital assets – shares in public or private companies, or real estate such as a second home or cottage.

  2. Income-producing assets – assets that produce income, such as RRSPs and RRIFs.

  3. Non-taxable assets – such as cash, TFSAs, your principal residence, and the proceeds from a life insurance policy.

How can life insurance help my heirs cover their tax liabilities?

There’s an old saying that there are only two things certain in life – death and taxes. So naturally, you do not want your loved ones to be burdened with tax liabilities when they inherit capital or income-producing assets from your estate. In most situations, the estate may not have enough cash to leave to your heirs to cover those tax liabilities.

Providing the means to cover tax liabilities upon your death is where life insurance can be such a valuable part of estate planning. With life insurance, you can both guarantee your heirs have the funds when they need them, as well as receive the death benefit tax-free. In addition, your heirs won’t have the stress of how they’ll come up with the money to pay taxes on any assets they inherit.

Are there any other reasons I should include life insurance as part of my estate planning?

Since life insurance death benefit is tax-free, it is an excellent source of liquidity to include in your estate planning. Your heirs can use the funds for a variety of purposes, including:

  • Paying off debts

  • Covering funeral expenses

  • As a source of income – If your family has suddenly gone from two income-earners to one, this can significantly affect their standard of living.

  • Provide funding for a considerable expense, such as college or university tuition.

We can help with estate planning

If you’d like to include life insurance as part of your estate planning but aren’t sure where to start – we can help you with that! We’ll talk to you about different types and amounts of life insurance coverage to see what works for you – call us or email us today!

Estate Freeze

In 2015, CIBC conducted a poll to see how many Canadian business owners had a business transition plan. Almost half of them didn’t have one.

No business owner likes to think about handing over their business they’ve built from the ground up. But the fact of the matter is, you will have to do it eventually. Even more concerning, what if you were to become ill or incapacitated? Making a decision of this magnitude during trying times would not be ideal.

Your two main choices for passing on your business are:

  • Selling it

  • Transferring ownership to a successor of your choice (this can either be a family member or a non-family member such as a key employee)

When you die, all your capital property is deemed to have been sold immediately before your death. This includes your business. This means that capital gains taxes will be charged on whatever the fair market value (FMV) of your business is considered to be at the time of your death.

The higher the FMV of your business, the higher the capital gains taxes that will be charged. Your successors may not have the funds to pay these taxes which may force them to sell the business in order to fund the tax liability; thus, not to reaping the benefits of all your hard work as intended. 

The good news is that there’s a way to protect your business; an estate freeze.

What is an estate freeze?

For the business owner, an estate freeze can be an integral part of your estate planning strategy. The purpose of an estate freeze is to lock-in (freeze) the value of the business, freeing the successor from the tax liability that may arise should the business’ value increase.

This is how an estate freeze works:

  1. As a business owner, you can lock in or “freeze” the value of an asset as it stands today. Your successors will still have to pay taxes on your business when they inherit it – but not as much as if you hadn’t “frozen” your business and your company had increased in FMV.

  2. You continue to maintain control of your business. As well, you can receive income from your business while it is frozen.

  3. Your successor now benefits from the business’ future growth, but they won’t have to pay for any tax increases that occur before they inherit the business.

Freezing the value of your business can help you plan your tax spending properly. Selecting to “freeze” your business can help give you peace of mind that your successors won’t have to spend a considerable part of their inheritance on excessive taxes.

What happens when you freeze your estate?

  1.  When you execute an estate freeze, the first thing you need to do is exchange your common shares for preferred shares.  Your new preferred shares will have a fixed (a.k.a. “frozen”) value equal to the company’s present fair market value. Make sure you have everything in place to properly determine the fair market value before you exchange your shares. 

  2. Your company will then issue common shares, which your successors subscribe to for a nominal price (for example, 1 dollar). Note that your successors don’t own the stock yet – subscribing to the stocks means they will take ownership of the stocks at a future date.

As part of your estate freeze, you must have a shareholders’ agreement ready to bring in new shareholders. This agreement should list any terms and conditions related to the purchase, redemption, or transfer of your company’s common shares. 

1. You can choose to receive some retirement income from your preferred shares by cashing in a fixed amount gradually. This action will reduce your preferred shares’ total value, reducing income tax liability upon death. For example:

  • Your shares are worth $10,000,000, and you need $100,000 annually. You can then redeem $100,000 worth of shares.

  • If you live for 30 more after you freeze your estate, you will have withdrawn $3,000,000 of your shares. This reduces the value of your shares to $7,000,000. 

  • At your death, your tax liability is lower than it would have been had your shares remained at the original value of $10,000,000. 

2. You can opt to maintain voting control in your company. This can be complicated (so you should consult a licensed professional), but you can set up your estate freeze so that you still have voting control in your business with your preferred stock. 

How you can benefit from an estate freeze

  1. You get peace of mind. The most important benefit to a tax freeze is that you know, whoever your successors are, they will receive what they are entitled to and not have to deal with any unpredictable tax burdens. Since an estate freeze fixes the maximum amount of taxes to be paid, you can properly plan how much money to set aside for this tax liability. One option is to have a life insurance policy equal to the amount of the tax liability, with your successor as the beneficiary, so you know they will have enough money to pay for these taxes.

  2. You encourage participation in growing your business. Your chosen successors will be motivated to help the company grow, as they know they will benefit in the future.

  3. Further tax reductions. If your shares qualify for lifetime capital gains exemption, then an estate freeze also helps further reduce your successor’s tax liability.

Is an estate freeze the right strategy for you?

There are a few things you need to consider when deciding if an estate freeze is right for you or not. 

  1. Retirement funding. What kind of retirement savings, if any, do you have? If you have money put aside in RRSPs, TFSAs, or even have a pension from a previous job, then an estate freeze may be the right choice for you. If you were planning to sell your company and live off the proceeds in retirement, then it likely is not the right choice for you.

  2. Succession plans. Do you have someone in mind who would be a suitable successor? Just because you think your child, spouse, or best employee may want to take over your business doesn’t mean they do. Talk to anyone you are considering making a successor and see if they are both interested in and able to keep your business going. 

  3. Family relationships. Trying to figure out how to select a successor if you have several children may be challenging. It can cause a lot of strain amongst your children if they are all named successors if only some of them are actively interested in running the business. You may want to consider only making one child a successor and providing for your other children in different ways, such as making them a life insurance beneficiary. 

If you decide to pursue an estate freeze for your business, you are helping plan for your heirs’ future and cutting down on the amount of taxes that will eventually have to be paid.  That being said – an estate freeze can be complicated, and all the steps must be performed correctly. Be sure to consult an experienced professional be taking any steps to freeze your estate.

Financial Planning

A financial plan looks at where you are today and where you want to go. It determines your short, medium and long term financial goals and how you can reach them.

Why do you need a Financial Plan?

  • Worry less about money and gain control.

  • Organize your finances.

  • Prioritize your goals.

  • Focus on the big picture.

  • Save money to reach your goals.

What does a Financial Plan include?

There are 2 main sides your financial plan should address: Accumulation and Protection

Accumulation:

  • Cash Management – Savings and Debt

  • Tax Planning

  • Investments

Protection:

  • Insurance Planning

  • Health Insurance

  • Estate Planning

What’s the Financial Planning Process?

  • Establish and define the financial planner-client relationship.

  • Gather information about current financial situation and goals including lifestyle goals.

  • Analyze and evaluate current financial status.

  • Develop and present strategies and solutions to achieve goals.

  • Implement recommendations.

  • Monitor and review recommendations. Adjust if necessary.

Next steps…

  • Talk to us about helping you get your finances in order so you can achieve your lifestyle and financial goals.

  • Feel confident in knowing you have a plan to get to your goals.

10 Essential Decisions for Business Owners

10 Essential Decisions for Business Owners

Business owners are busy… they are busy running a successful business, wearing lots of hats and making a ton of decisions. We’ve put together a list of 10 essential decisions for every business owner to consider; from corporate structure to retirement and succession planning:

  • Best structure for your business (ex. Sole Proprietor, Corporation, Partnership)

  • Reduce taxes

  • What to do with surplus cash

  • Build employee loyalty

  • Reduce risk

  • Deal with the unexpected

  • Retire from your business

  • Sell your business

  • Keep your business in the family

  • What to do when you’re retired

As a financial advisor, we are uniquely positioned to help business owners, talk to us about your situation and we can provide the guidance you need.