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. 

Estate Planning for Blended Families

Blended families – where two people get married but have children from previous relationships – are becoming more common. It can be challenging enough to take care of the everyday logistics; from where to live to making sure everyone gets along. So trying to make sure you properly take of estate planning often doesn’t get taken care of.

In most families – blended or not – spouses leave everything to each other. Then, when the surviving spouse dies, the remainder is divided amongst all of the children. The problem with this setup is that there is no guarantee that the surviving spouse will not remarry and inadvertently disinherit the deceased’s children.

To make sure that everyone is treated fairly, it’s essential to consider how to handle each of the following estate planning issues for blended families:

  • Sharing the Family Home

  • Make the Most of a Registered Retirement Savings Plan

  • How to Share Non-Registered Investments and Other Assets

  • Why It’s Important to Select a Good Trustee

  • The Advantages of Life Insurance for Blended Family Estate Planning

It’s essential to have a full discussion with your spouse and children to avoid misunderstandings and reduce uncertainty. But you don’t have to do it alone! We can provide you with tailored solutions to ensure your wishes are carried out.

Sharing The Family Home

This can be challenging, depending on whether the blended family moves into a new home or into a house one spouse already owns. An option to consider is that the spouse who is moving into the home already owned by the other spouse can then purchase an interest in the family home. If this occurs, each spouse can own the home as tenants-in-common, enabling them to manage their interest in the house separately.

When it comes time for each spouse to draw up a will, provisions can be made for the surviving spouse to remain in the home until the time of their choosing (or death) before passing on the interest to their respective children.

Make the Most of a Registered Retirement Savings Plans

The best way to take advantage of the tax-free rollover from an RRSP is for each spouse to name each other the beneficiary. While it may be tempting to leave your RRSP to your estate or one or more of your children, this can have ramifications. If you leave it to your estate, it will have to go through probate and also be taxed. If you leave it an adult child, the RRSP won’t have to go through probate, but the entire RRSP will be considered taxable to the deceased in the year of death.

How to Share Non-Registered Investments and Other Assets

You can set up your estate planning so that your spouse can benefit from income-producing assets during their lifetime, without necessarily impacting the capital in those assets. Your children can then benefit from them after your spouse dies.

Each spouse can set up a spousal testamentary trust to contain their income-producing investments and assets. The surviving spouse will then receive all the income from the trust and the option to access the capital for specific needs (if specified in the trust). After the surviving spouse dies, the assets will pass to whoever was identified as the trust’s inheritors. You can make the inheritors your children. This ensures that both your spouse and your children are taken care of.

Why It’s Important to Select a Good Trustee

Trusts are a vital part of effective estate planning for blended families. This means that it’s critical to pick the right trustee – as they will control and manage the assets of the deceased’s estate as outlined in the deceased’s will. You may even want to consider multiple trustees or the services of a trust company. A strong but neutral trustee will help ensure that your wishes are followed without causing fighting amongst family members.

Advantages of Life Insurance for Blended Family Estate Planning

There are several advantages to using life insurance policies as part of your estate planning for blended families:

  • The death benefit is tax-free. You can have it paid out in cash directly or create trusts, so the capital goes to your spouse while they live and your children after your spouse dies.

  • Since you can name the beneficiary, you can control who inherits the proceeds. It’s not considered part of the will, so it cannot be included in any wills variation action (more commonly known as challenging the will).

  • If one spouse enters the marriage with significantly more wealth than the other, life insurance can help create a fair division of assets.

The Takeaway

No matter what choices you make about estate planning for your blended family, you must communicate openly and honestly with everyone in the family. This will help ensure that everyone is aware of the state of affairs and reduces misunderstandings and uncertainty about what the future may hold for everyone in the family.

Using professional advice while you are estate planning for blended families can help you create a solution that satisfies both spouses and their respective children’s objectives. Reach out to me if you have any questions or concerns about your estate planning – I’m here to help!

Saving for Education

Post-secondary education can be expensive, however, having the opportunity to plan for it helps with making sure that you’re capable to meet the costs of education. In addition, when you have a plan, it’s easier to make financial decisions that align with your goals and provide peace of mind. In the infographic checklist, we outline 6 factors to consider when paying for education: 

For parents:

  • How much to save and when will your child start school?

  • Registered Education Savings Plan – have you set up a family RESP plan and received the Canadian Education Savings Grant? If your income is low enough, you could qualify for the Canada Learning Bond.

  • Savings- are you saving separately for your child’s education? Cash Value Life Insurance- have you considered using this as a savings vehicle for your child’s education. What happens if your child decides not to go to school? These alternative savings vehicles provide flexibility so that you can use the funds for something else such as a down payment for a future home.

For children:

  • Will the child be working part-time and have their own savings for school?

  • Can the child apply for scholarships, bursaries or grants?

  • Will they need to apply for government student loan, personal loan or personal line of credit?

If you need help planning to save for your child’s post-secondary education, contact us!

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. 

Federal Budget 2021 Highlights

On April 19, 2021, the Federal Government released their 2021 budget. We have broken down the highlights of the financial measures in this budget into three different sections:

  • Business Owners

  • Personal Tax Changes

  • Supplementary Highlights

Business Owners

Extending Covid -19 Emergency Business Supports

All of the following COVID-19 Emergency Business Supports will be extended from June 5, 2021, to September 25, 2021, with the subsidy rates gradually decreasing:

  • Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) – The maximum wage subsidy is currently 75%. It will decrease down to 60% for July, 40% for August, and 20% for September.

  • Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) – The maximum rent subsidy is currently 65%. It will decrease down to 60% for July, 40% for August, and 20% for September.

  • Lockdown Support Program – The Lockdown Support Program rate of 25% will be extended from June 4, 2021, to September 25, 2021.

Only organizations with a decline in revenues of more than 10% will be eligible for these programs as of July 4, 2021. The budget also includes legislation to give the federal government authority to extend these programs to November 20, 2021, should either the economy or the public health situation make it necessary.

Canada Recovery Hiring Program

The federal budget introduced a new program called the Canada Recovery Hiring Program. The goal of this program is to help qualifying employers offset costs taken on as they reopen. An eligible employer can claim either the CEWS or the new subsidy, but not both.

The proposed subsidy will be available from June 6, 2021, to November 20, 2021, with a subsidy of 50% available from June to August. The Canada Recovery Hiring Program subsidy will decrease down to 40% for September, 30% for October, and 20% for November.

Interest Deductibility Limits

The federal budget for 2021 introduces new interest deductibility limits. This rule limits the amount of net interest expense that a corporation can deduct when determining its taxable income. The amount will be limited to a fixed ratio of its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (sometimes referred to as EBITDA).

The fixed ratio will apply to both existing and new borrowings and will be phased in at 40% as of January 1, 2023, and 30% for January 1, 2024.

Support for small and medium-size business innovation

The federal budget also includes 4 billion dollars to help small and medium-sized businesses innovate by digitizing and taking advantage of e-commerce opportunities. Also, the budget provides additional funding for venture capital start-ups via the Venture Capital Catalyst Program and research that will support up to 2,500 innovative small and medium-sized firms.

Personal Tax Changes

Tax treatment and Repayment of Covid-19 Benefit Amounts

The federal budget includes information on both the tax treatment and repayment of the following COVID-19 benefits:

  • Canada Emergency Response Benefits or Employment Insurance Emergency Response Benefits

  • Canada Emergency Student Benefits

  • Canada Recovery Benefits, Canada Recovery Sickness Benefits, and Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefits

Individuals who must repay a COVID-19 benefit amount can claim a deduction for that repayment in the year they received the benefit (by requesting an adjustment to their tax return), not the year they repaid it. Anyone considered a non-resident for income tax purposes will have their COVID-19 benefits included in their taxable income.

Disability Tax Credit

Eligibility changes have been made to the Disability Tax Credit. The criteria have been modified to increase the list of mental functions considered necessary for everyday life, expand the list of what can be considered when calculating time spent on therapy, and reduce the requirement that therapy is administered at least three times each week to two times a week (with the 14 hours per week requirement remaining the same).

Old Age Security

The budget enhances Old Age Security (OAS) benefits for recipients who will be 75 or older as of June 2022. A one-time, lump-sum payment of $500 will be sent out to qualifying pensioners in August 2021, with a 10% increase to ongoing OAS payments starting on July 1, 2022.

Waiving Canada Student Loan Interest

The budget also notes that the government plans to introduce legislation that will extend waiving of any interest accrued on either Canada Student Loans or Canada Apprentice Loans until March 31, 2023.

Support for Workforce Transition

Support to help Canadians transition to growing industries was also included in the budget. The support is as follows:

  • $250 million over three years to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada to help workers upskill and redeploy to growing industries.

  • $298 million over three years for the Skills for Success Program to provide training in skills for the knowledge economy.

  • $960 million over three years for the Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program to help design and deliver training relevant to the needs of small and medium businesses.

Supplementary Highlights

Federal Minimum Wage

The federal budget also introduces a proposed federal minimum wage of $15 per hour that would rise with inflation.

New Housing Rebate

The GST New Housing Rebate conditions will be changed. Previously, if two or more individuals were buying a house together, all of them must be acquiring the home as their primary residence (or that of a relation) to qualify for the GST New Housing Rebate. Now, the GST New Housing Rebate will be available as long as one of the purchasers (or a relation of theirs) acquires the home as their primary place of residence. This will apply to all agreements of purchase and sale entered into after April 19, 2021.

Unproductive use of Canadian Housing by Foreign Non-Resident Owners

A new tax was introduced in the budget on unproductive use of Canadian housing by non-resident foreign owners. This tax will be a 1% tax on the value of non-resident, non-Canadian owned residential real estate considered vacant or underused. This tax will be levied annually starting in 2022.

All residential property owners in Canada (other than Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada) must also file an annual declaration for the prior calendar year with the CRA for each Canadian residential property they own, starting in 2023. Filing the annual declaration may qualify owners to claim an exemption from the tax on their property if they can prove the property is leased to qualified tenants for a minimum period in a calendar year.

Excise Duty on Vaping and Tobacco

The budget also includes a new proposal on excise duties on vaping products and tobacco. The proposed framework would consist of:

  • A single flat rate duty on every 10 millilitres of vaping liquid as of 2022

  • An increase in tobacco excise duties by $4 per carton of 200 cigarettes and increases to the excise duty rates for other tobacco products such as tobacco sticks and cigars as of April 20, 2021.

Luxury Goods Tax

Finally, the federal budget proposed introducing a tax on certain luxury goods for personal use as of January 1, 2022.

  • For luxury cars and personal aircraft, the new tax is equal to the lesser of 10% of the vehicle’s total value or the aircraft, or 20% of the value above $100,000.

  • For boats over $250,000, the new tax is equal to the lesser of 10% of the full value of the boat or 20% of the value above $250,000.

If you have any questions or concerns about how the new federal budget may impact you, call us – we’d be happy to help you!

The Best Way to Buy Mortgage Insurance

Before buying insurance from your bank to cover your mortgage, understand the difference between self owned mortgage life insurance and bank owned life insurance. The key differences are ownership, premium, coverage, beneficiaries and portability.

Ownership:

  • Self: You own and control the policy.

  • Bank: The bank owns and controls the policy.

Premium:

  • Self: Your premiums are guaranteed at policy issue and discounts are available based on your health.

  • Bank: Premiums are not guaranteed and there are no discounts available based on your health.

Coverage:

  • Self: The coverage that you apply for remains the same.

  • Bank: The coverage is tied to your mortgage balance therefore it decreases as you pay down your mortgage but the premium stays the same.

Beneficiary:

  • Self: You choose who your beneficiary is and they can choose how they want to use the insurance benefit.

  • Bank: The bank is beneficiary and only pays off your mortgage.

Portability:

  • Self: Your policy stays with you regardless of your lender.

  • Bank: Your policy is tied to your lender and if you change, you may need to reapply for insurance.

We’ve created an infographic about the difference between personally owned life insurance vs. bank owned life insurance.

Talk to us, we can help.

Insurance Planning for Young Families

For young families, making sure your family is financially protected can be overwhelming, especially since there’s so much information floating online. This infographic addresses the importance of insurance- personal insurance.

The 4 areas of personal insurance a young family should take care of are:

  • Health

  • Disability

  • Critical Illness

  • Life

Health: We are so fortunate to live in Canada, where the healthcare system pays for basic healthcare services for Canadian citizens and permanent residents. However, not everything healthcare related is covered, in reality, 30% of our health costs* are paid for out of pocket or through private insurance such as prescription medication, dental, prescription glasses, physiotherapy, etc.. Moreover, if you travel outside of Canada, medical emergencies can be extremely expensive.

Disability: Most people spend money on protecting their home and car, but many overlook protecting their greatest asset: their ability to earn income. Unfortunately one in three people on average will be disabled for 90 days or more at least once before age 65. Disability insurance can provide you with a portion of your income if you were to become disabled and unable to earn an income.

Critical Illness: For a lot of us, the idea of experiencing a critical illness such as a heart attack, stroke or cancer can seem unlikely, but almost 3 in 4 (73%) working Canadians know someone who experience a serious illness. Sadly, this can have serious consequences on you and your family, with Critical Illness insurance, it provides a lump sum payment so you can focus on your recovery.

Life: For young families, if your loved ones depend on you for financial support, then life insurance is absolutely necessary, because it replaces your income, pay off your debts and provides peace of mind.

Talk to us about helping making sure you and your family are protected.

Guide to Covid-19: Government Relief Programs in Canada

The intention for our “Guide to Covid-19: Government Relief Programs in Canada” is to help businesses and individuals to cut through the noise and make sure they’re getting all the help they can receive from the federal and provincial programs.

Federal programs include:

  • Small Business Wage Subsidy

  • Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy

  • Canada Emergency Business Account

  • Canada Emergency Response Benefit

  • Student Loan Programs

Individual provincial programs include:

  • Utilities

  • Housing

  • Student Loan Programs