Do your heirs expect to inherit?

Do your heirs expect to inherit an old homestead property, a family cottage, a residence, your farm, an art collection, furniture, or business shares? They may have to be liquidated by the estate, perhaps at a loss, to pay any existing tax liability. Life insurance proceeds may help to side-step probate, or estate administration tax, and can cover any estate liabilities that could impinge on bequests that you want to make to your loved ones.

Make sure that your gifts stay in your family. Deemed dispositions of capital assets at death occur even if an asset is willed directly to an heir. A capital gains tax liability remains in the deceased’s final tax return and reduces the value of the estate.

5 Methods to reduce taxes that will be due upon your death.

  1. Use the spousal (and disabled child) rollover provisions of RRSPs or RRIFs.
  2. Leave assets that have accrued capital gains to your spouse to defer tax.
  3. Leave assets without capital gains to other (non-spouse) family members.
  4. While you are alive, gradually sell assets having capital gains, to avoid dealing with the capital gains all at once in your estate.
  5. Purchase life insurance to cover capital gains taxation in the estate.

Taxes may be payable on gains.

Income-producing real estate, a second residence, or cottage, and any other assets left to surviving family members, such as shares of a business, of stocks and investment funds may face capital gains taxation.

You may also want to consider charitable donations to lessen taxes in the estate. Hire an estate planning lawyer and make sure your Will is updated and includes your estate planning directives.

TFSAs can help transfer money to your heirs. 

Money accumulated in a TFSA does not attract taxes at the time of death. If you want to create increased transferable after-tax wealth, consider moving money into TFSAs from non-registered investment accounts. Note: It is important to get an Advisor’s guidance, and perhaps an accountant to implement this in a careful tax plan.

Be careful, though to also consider taxable implications when considering selling non-registered assets. Ask your tax advisor if you will be triggering a  taxable gain? Possibly utilize TFSAs to their maximum potential, and monitor the comparative tax impact of transferring wealth from RRSPs/RRIFs to heirs of the estate.

What options does Buy-Sell Insurance give business owners?


When a co-owner/partner dies, the surviving business owners usually have five options in dealing with the deceased owner’s business interest:

1.   Buy-out the heirs of the partner with Life Insurance proceeds: This is usually the most preferred option. After all, the surviving owners/partners know how to run their business. It usually makes sense to buy out the heirs who are not engaged in or lack expertise in the business and carry on business from there.

2.  Keep the heirs in the business.  This would only be advisable if the heir was actually involved in the business for some time, or has skills that can advance the cause and profitability of the business.

3.  Take on an outsider who purchases the deceased’s business interest. A good buy-sell agreement can circumvent the need to have an outsider buy into your business if that arrangement would harm the current business partnership or the business. In some cases an outsider may already have an investment in, have expertise in, or a common business goal with your company that would mutually benefit everyone in the business. In this case, advance planning could allow such an individual to be part of buying side of the buy-sell agreement. The same individual may need to be a beneficiary on the insured lives of all the partners, in tandem with being written into the agreement.

4.  Selling to the heirs may be an option. This may be an option when some of the heirs are involved and successful in the same line of business with primary senior family members of the earlier generation who began your business. In this case the considered heirs, should receive funding from the proceeds of a well-planned fund to cover capital gains taxes, and fund operations, and pay for the owners shares.

5.  Liquidate the business or sell it to a third party. If this is the main goal, it is wise to involve discussions with the potential buyer long before one dies. If the business is large you may need to hire a firm that specializes in valuing and selling businesses. It is wise to estimate your capital gains exposure and cover any tax liabilities, as well as redeem business debts with the proceeds of life insurance which can be paid out tax-free.

In most cases, option #1 offers the business owners the best choice, with a small expenditure to buy life insurance that makes a payment to heirs with the use of a buy-sell agreement.

Why is Universal Life Insurance an excellent Estate Planning tool?

There are several reasons why people use Universal Life (UL) for estate planning.

  • The death benefit is adjustable. The amount of life insurance can be increased or decreased to reflect your changing needs. If the death benefit remains level, eventually the major portion of the benefit, over a long period of time, can consist of the cash reserve (CSV). As the need for the insurance shrinks, the cash can increase, providing the insurance cost doesn’t reduce the cash value and its growth. If the death benefit grows, the cost of insurance will increase with age, and continues to be paid from the cash value.
  • You can insure more than one life in the plan. You have the option of insuring yourself, your spouse, both of you, your children, or business associates using one or more of these policies. In some cases, the ownership can be transferred or lives added and the premiums paid from the original tax advantaged funds. Your death benefit can be payable after the first spouse’s death to provide an income for the surviving spouse. Alternatively, you can arrange to have the benefit paid after the second spouse’s death to maximize the value of your family’s inheritance or meet your estate’s tax liabilities.
  • UL works to protect you from the potential tax liability of your estate. Discuss your estate use of UL with a good tax advisor, CA, or financial advisor specializing in estate taxation. You may also want to seek counsel from an estate-planning lawyer. Make sure you, along with your financial representative, assess the estate’s need for life insurance and the various solutions. The best estate-planning solutions are most often insurance related because life insurance is designed to pay a large capital benefit at precisely the time it is needed.
  • Mitigate tax erosion of the value of a significant estate. If you own stocks and bonds, equity investment funds, a family cottage, a second residence, or business assets you may face capital gains taxation in your estate. Upon death, taxes will also be due on funds remaining in an RRSP/RRIF (after the death of both spouses in the case of a married couple). One policy can replace or pre-fund such taxes due. With a joint last-to-die policy, the insurance proceeds can be used to cover the estimated estate taxes. The advantage is that one’s entire pre-tax estate valuation can pass, as desired, to the family heirs.
  • Circumvent probate and/or estate administration tax (EAT). When the tax-free benefit is paid directly to beneficiaries, there is no need to probate this money or have it reviewed by the government. In fact, other beneficiaries have no recourse to complain about monies paid to heirs in this manner. Depending on the province, such legislation may be under review or currently changing.
  • Business owners can protect their asset value. The death benefit of a UL policy can create immediate capital to take a business through the transition of losing one of its leaders, or key employees, while allowing surviving partners to buy out the outstanding interests via a payout of the share ownership of the deceased partner. This is commonly done within the framework of a well structured buy-sell agreement.
  • Other tax advantages. A UL policy owner can earn and accumulate tax deferred interest to potentially increase the after-tax yield of your investments and policy cash value over the long term. The UL deposits are protected from secondary annual taxation on interest earnings until withdrawn.

EN 3.13



The problem of Estate Capital Gains Tax

You and your heirs may think that all of your assets will pass over to them tax free. Let’s examine how estate taxation can erode the value of one’s property and cause business succession problems


The Family Business Many successful family businesses have accrued capital gains in the millions, from the time the owner started years ago. The tax payable is so high that the business cannot afford the liability once the owner dies, at least without liquidating. One way to cover the tax liability is to save for it. The problem arises if the owner dies too soon, or the money gets used for an emergency or a new opportunity; or if the savings goal is impossible for the company to achieve. A better method might be to simply buy life insurance to immediately cover the entire estimated liability risk, which is due at the same time the benefit is paid upon the owner’s death (or the death of a surviving spouse). A sole owner may buy enough life insurance to add additional capital to offer stability if the company were to be sold, or where a wife, son, or daughter wants to take it over.

Investments Any capital asset that has accrued value over the initial purchase price, will have capital gains (if yet unrealized) taxed in the estate. At that time if there is no surviving spouse or dependent, an RRSP will all be taxed fully as income. Again, life insurance allows the payment of any gains tax and/or a capital replacement of the estate’s lost RRSP value.


The Cottage Perhaps you acquired a cottage that has increased in value from next to nothing, over several years of inflation while people have sought after vacation properties. Just like the business, a cottage can have capital gains growth. Thus, that asset can also later present you with a tax liability. If you die, or sell it, capital gains tax will be triggered on the portion that exceeds the amount originally invested. Consider passing the cottage on to the children. Personal life insurance, purchased with after-tax dollars, can offer a non-taxable death benefit to pay the tax. You can buy additional life insurance for business needs, or create future income for a spouse, or dependent child, if necessary.

Does your family want to keep the cottage after your death? If so, would you want them to inherit the cottage together with a large income tax bill? Where the property passes to the deceased’s spouse, taxation of the capital gain may be deferred. Once it passes to the next generation, tax is finally due at once.

The most effective and least expensive way to cover any capital gains tax liability on a family cottage is to purchase a life insurance policy on the owner(s) for the projected amount due in the estate. Purchase a permanent life insurance plan. These plans often offer a competitive rate of return on your investment and the full amount is payable at death entirely tax-free. An additional benefit is that by virtue of the life insurance guarantee, the entire coverage needed is available after the payment of just one monthly premium. If you die, your beneficiaries will have the cash to pay the debt, rather than having to quickly sell the cottage to pay taxes due. Consider taking out a permanent policy on your life (or a joint policy that insures your spouse as well) that will increase in value to meet the tax on the rising capital gain on your cottage property.

What is taxable in my final tax return?

Taxation in your final return.

In the year of death, the deceased’s executor must submit a final tax return (also known as the terminal return) to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

All income that dates from your last tax return to the day of your death must be reported, such as:

• Gains on Capital Property Where your property has increased in value above what you paid for it, that gain needs to be reported. In the year of death, one-half of the combined capital gains or losses from capital properties is a net taxable capital gain or a net capital loss. A net capital gain is taxed in the year of death. A net capital loss can be applied against the taxable capital gains of the three immediately preceding years. The balance of the net capital loss can then be applied to reduce any other income in the year of death and/or the immediately preceding year.

• RRSPs and RRIFs If you intended to pass all the remaining value in RRSP/RRIF holdings to your heirs, think again. The entire amount left in your RRSP or RRIF will be classified as fully taxable income. If your spouse or common-law partner survives you, the money will be rolled over to him/her and later taxed as it is withdrawn or after his or her death. Contributions made prior to death are deductible in the year of death. An executor can contribute to an RRSP of the surviving spouse within the allowable limits and within 60 days of the calendar year-end, and get a deduction against the income of the deceased in the terminal tax return.

• Registered Pension Plans (RPPs) A death benefit of an RPP is fully taxable as income of the recipient estate or beneficiary, subject to rollovers to plans for the deceased’s spouse, common-law partner, or dependent children under the age of 18.

• Regular Income All taxable income from employment, a business, or investments must be included in the terminal return. This will include any accrued income not received prior to death, such as holiday pay from an employer.

• Investment Income This will include interest on term deposits, interest due on money you have out on loan, interest on bonds, and the taxable portion of annuity income accrued to the date of death.

What tax advantage does life insurance offer to my estate? 

 There are certain life insurance policies offered with interesting tax-planning advantages. Legal tax exempt rights are allowed in our tax legislation in relation to life insurers, which allows the possibility to accomplish the following:

• Premiums over and above the associated costs of insurance, can be invested and accumulate tax-deferred within certain plans.

• Tax-deferral of the investments continues until such time that withdrawals are taken from the policy.

• Tax is avoided on both the face amount of the insurance, plus any ongoing cash accumulation in the policy, when paid out to the beneficiaries on the death of the insured. Thus, tax is permanently avoided.

Note: Talk to your advisor about historic or current legislation that may or may not affect your province.