April 13, 2023

How To Protect Your Estate

Chris Lubell

You've dedicated your life to achieving financial security for you and your family. You must pay yearly taxes on both your earned and investment income while you are alive. But did you realise that, in the event of your demise or the demise of your spouse, your assets can also result in a tax obligation? A taxpayer in Canada is presumed to have sold all of their assets at death. Taxes may become due if the assets' worth rises above their cost if suitable planning isn't taken.

The good news is that by organising or redistributing certain assets that might result in a tax liability at your death, it would be feasible to decrease or at least delay the payment of this tax. Additionally, there are ways to cost-effectively save money to pay all or a portion of any taxes that could become payable upon your passing.

Obviously, each circumstance is unique, so you should speak with a financial professional before making any significant choices. You can structure your estate in the most tax-efficient way by following the straightforward instructions below.


Most people are aware of the assets they hold, but to better understand how those assets are handled after death, let's divide those assets into two groups.

Items That Might Cause A Tax Liability

On your final tax return, real estate that is not your primary residence, for instance, is taxed for capital gains. For instance, suppose you paid $100,000 for a vacation property in 1990, but it is now worth $500,000 after your passing. A presumed disposition has occurred, resulting in a $400,000 capital gain, of which $200,000 is taxable in the year of your death. If you owned commercial or rental real estate, you might also be liable for additional taxes in the form of recaptured depreciation upon your passing.

Shares in both public and private companies, farms, antiques, and other collectibles are examples of additional assets that result in capital gains upon death. An individual who resides in Canada may be able to earn the first $900,000 of capital gains tax-free if the private company shares are owned by a Qualifying Small Business Corporation. The first $1,000,000 in capital gains on eligible farm or fishing property may be tax-free.

According to a clause in the Income Tax Act, transferring assets to a spouse allows you to postpone paying capital gains taxes after you pass away. By doing this, the tax will be put on hold until the spouse sells the assets or passes away.
Registered assets, including pension plans, RRSPs, and RRIFs, are also considered to be disposed of after death and the entire balance is subject to income tax. All withdrawals and income payments made in the year of death are in addition to this. Once more, a taxpayer can designate a spouse as beneficiary to permit a rollover of those registered plans onto the spouse's registered plan, so avoiding tax in the year of death.

Investing in Assets That Don't Cause Tax Liabilities

There are typically four sorts of assets that are exempt from taxation upon death. These include the death benefit from a life insurance policy, your primary residence, tax-free savings accounts, the tax-free share of capital gains, and your principal residence.
The designation of a beneficiary is possible with financial instruments like TFSAs, RSPs, and life insurance. When this is done, the proceeds at death transfer immediately and independently of the will to the named beneficiary. As a result, the value of these assets is not subject to probate fees or administrative expenses.

Taxes And Death

A tax liability cannot be entirely eliminated upon death. However, there are ways you might support your heirs' needs while while helping the estate pay your final tax obligation. Here are a few tried-and-true methods for handling the final tax bill.

Increasing Your Cash Reserve

The act of saving money is perfectly acceptable. However, it is not a very practical choice to save money or accumulate a cash reserve to cover taxes upon death. For starters, you don't know with certainty when you'll need the money or how long you'll have to save for it. Saving money doesn't buy you time, and it frequently isn't kept in savings. You would be far better off buying life insurance premiums if you were aiming to save particularly to cover taxes after death.

Sales of Assets

When assets must be sold to pay taxes upon death, this might lead to a "fire sale" when less money is made on the sale of the assets than was anticipated. The asset's loss of potential for future growth and income for the benefit of the successors is another effect of liquidation. The selling of an asset frequently results in additional taxes and costs. Unfortunately, there might be no other choice if you don't have enough life insurance.

Health Insurance

Your beneficiary receives the death benefit of your life insurance tax-free, and your policy may offer your estate access to cash if your heirs need it to cover the tax penalty owed on other assets. This is an effective method for reducing the tax responsibilities associated with an estate while also covering final costs, such as debt and burial fees, and generating future income for the family.

Estate Indefinitely

An estate freeze, which "freezes" the worth of the estate and transfers future growth to the next generation, may be performed for bigger estates. Although this can be a time-consuming and expensive process, it can result in significant future tax savings for large estates.

Loaning Money to Pay the Tax

When no prior planning has been made, an executor may try to borrow money to pay the taxes that become payable upon death. One major drawback of this choice is that the loan must be repaid with interest in addition to the required collateral that would need to be pledged. The total of the loan and interest payments would ultimately be significantly higher than the tax. If there were no other options, this might be the only choice, but it is undoubtedly not the best one.

Concerns regarding your estate?

Your achievement is evidenced by the fact that your estate will have to pay taxes after your passing. The good news is that. An competent financial advisor can assist with effective estate planning, which can considerably decrease or even completely eliminate the amount of unpleasant news. Keep in mind that better results can be obtained the earlier planning begins.

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