Advice to tips and advice to improve your finances and long term goals
Monday, June 7, 2021
Financial Health House and Home Real Estate Market Buying and Selling
Moving from one home to another requires so many careful considerations along the way.
Not only do you need to decide whether to work with a real estate agent, you need to decide how you want to price your current home to get it sold, all while planning ahead for your future home. Your budget, which neighbourhood you want to live in, potential maintenance needs, along with how your lifestyle will be impacted are just a few of the important decisions that need to be made in the process.
Now, combine that with downsizing. Consider having to determine your ability to keep every single item in your home. For seniors especially, this can mean having to sell or give away valued furniture and family heirlooms, going through years worth of collected items, and essentially dismantling an entire life within their beloved home.
How do you prioritize those sentimental items and memories along with the necessities? This can feel incredibly overwhelming, and may ultimately lead to decision fatigue.
We have all experienced decision fatigue at some point in our lives. Picture this: You have just spent a long day at work, taking care of every task meticulously. Perhaps you’re also a parent that must coordinate multiple extra curricular activities, keeping track of more than one schedule at a time. You arrive home in the evening, and a member of your family asks what will be for dinner, and your brain quite literally shuts down. You do not want to, and simply cannot make that decision.
The Seniors Real Estate Institute (SREI) describes decision fatigue as the inability to make quality decisions when you have had to make too many in a short period of time. The brain can block the function that allows decisions to be made, regardless of whether you have more to make, or not. Tasks can start to pile up, and apathy can set in — halting the entire process of downsizing.
Making multiple significant decisions is challenging at any age, but even more so for our seniors. This means that the job of a real estate agent isn’t simply to look after the care and safety of their homes, but of their well-being as well. Fortunately, there are some things that can be done to combat decision fatigue.
1. Complete Paperwork in Increments
Spreading out signing various documents can lighten the workload to remove some stress. These do not necessarily need to be completed all at once, and taking advantage of that flexibility can make or break a downsizing process when decision fatigue is setting in.
2. Access Available Resources
If possible, encourage your clients to bring family members on board to provide support while going through sentimental items in the home. Hiring movers, packers, and cleaners can provide comfort and convenience. Looking into storage facilities may mean not having to sell or give away precious items.
3. Watch for Signs
Knowing the signs of decision fatigue and recognizing them as early as possible can make all the difference in cultivating a smooth downsizing process. Some of these signs include, but are not limited to procrastination, impulsivity, avoidance, indecision, irritability and/or anxiety.
4. Encourage and Celebrate
Sometimes making the tiniest decision can feel like a big win, so celebrate that! If your clients feel encouraged and empowered as they make the smaller decisions, they will have an easier time tackling the larger ones.
The care and safety of our seniors as they downsize is of the utmost importance. Having a Master Accredited Senior Agent (M-ASA) like myself involved ensures a smooth process where nothing gets overlooked.
Thank you to the Senior Real Estate Institute for providing some of the valuable information I’ve included in this blog post.
Thursday, May 6, 2021
Financial Health House and Home Buying and Selling
Imagine the first place you lived as a young adult. Now imagine trying to fit your life today into that space. Not pretty, right?
For most of us, our housing needs are cyclical. A newly independent adult can find freedom and flexibility in even a tiny apartment. That same space, to a growing family, would feel stifling. For empty nesters, a large home with several unused bedrooms can become impractical to heat and clean. It’s no surprise that life transitions often trigger a home purchase.
While your home-buying journey may not look like your neighbour’s or friend’s, broad trends can help you understand what to keep in mind as you house hunt. No one wants to regret their home purchase, and taking the time now to think about exactly what you need can save a lot of heartache later.
The Newly Married or Partnered Couple
The financial and legal commitment of both traditional and common-law marriage has provided a springboard to home-ownership for centuries. And while the average age of first marriage in Canada is around 30, the average age of first home purchase has shifted even later to 36. No matter your age, there are some key factors that you should consider when you are ready to enter into your first home purchase together.
Affordability is Key
There’s no doubt about it—with home prices that just keep climbing, many first-time buyers feel that the deck is stacked against them when it comes to home-ownership. But stepping onto the property ladder can be more doable than many realize, especially in today’s low mortgage rate environment.
While many buyers are holding out for their dream home, embracing the concept of a starter home can open a lot of doors. In fact, that’s a popular approach for first-time home-buyers to take. Fifty percent of first-time Canadian buyers report that they plan to eventually upgrade to a larger home.
Chosen carefully, a starter home can be a great investment as well as a launch-pad for your life together. If you focus on buying a home you can afford now with strong potential for appreciation, you can build equity alongside your savings, positioning you to trade up in the future if your needs change.
Taking Advantage of Low Mortgage Rates
Canadian mortgage rates hit record lows in summer 2020, and while they are gradually creeping back up, now is still an ideal time to purchase your first home together. A lower interest rate can save you a bundle over the life of your loan, which can significantly increase the quality of home you can get for your money.
But what if both halves of a couple don’t have good credit? You still have options. First, boosting a credit score can be easier than you think—simply paying your credit cards down below 35% of your limit can go a long way. But if that’s not enough to raise your score, you might consider taking out the mortgage in only the better-scoring partner’s name. The downside is that applying for a mortgage with only one income will reduce your qualification amount. And if you take that route, make sure you understand the legal and financial implications for both parties should the relationship end.
Commute and Lifestyle Considerations
Whether you’ve lived in a rental together for years or are sharing a home for the first time, you know that living together involves some compromises. But there are certain home features that can make life easier in the future if you identify them now. The number of bathrooms, availability of closet space, and even things like kitchen layout can make a big difference in your day-to-day life and relationship.
Your home’s location will also have a significant impact on your quality of life, so consider it carefully. What will commuting look like for each of you? And if you have different interests or hobbies—say, museums vs. hiking—you’ll need to find a community that meets both your needs. Need some help identifying the ideal location that fits within your budget? We can match you with some great neighbourhoods that offer the perfect mix of amenities and affordability.
The Growing Family
Having kids changes things—fast. With a couple of rowdy preteens and maybe some pets in the mix, that 1,600 square foot home that felt palatial to two adults suddenly becomes a lot more cramped. Whether you’ve just had your first child or are getting to the point where your kids can’t comfortably share a bedroom any longer, there’s plenty to consider when you’re ready to size up to a home that will fit your growing family.
The Importance of School Districts
For many parents, the desire to give their kids the best education—especially once they are in middle and high school— surpasses even their desire for more breathing room. In fact, home-buyers report that school district is one of their top concerns. Of course, homes in the best-rated districts tend to be more expensive and harder to nab. But when push comes to shove, many buyers with kids prefer to sacrifice a bit of space to find a home in their desired location.
But when you’re moving to a new community, it can be tough to figure out what the local schools are actually like—and online ratings don't tell the whole story. That’s why talking to a local real estate agent can be a game-changer. We don’t just work in this community; we know it inside and out.
For many families, living space is a key priority. Once you have teenagers who want space to hang out with their friends, a finished basement or a rec room can be a huge bonus (and can help you protect some quieter living space for yourself).
A good layout can also make family life a lot easier. For example, an open plan is invaluable if you want to cook dinner while keeping an eye on your young kids playing in the living room. And if you think that you might expand your family further in the future, be sure that the home you purchase has enough bedrooms and bathrooms to accommodate that comfortably.
Try to think about how each room will fit into your day-to-day. Are you anticipating keeping the house stocked to feed hungry teenagers? A pantry might rise to the top of the list. Dreading the loads of laundry that come with both infants and older kids (especially if they play sports)? The task can be much more bearable in a well-designed laundry room. Imagine a typical day or week of chores in the house to identify which features will have the biggest impact.
Chances are, you won’t find every nice-to-have in one home, which is why identifying the must-haves can be such a boon to the decision-making process. We can help you assess your options and give you a sense of what is realistic within your budget.
The Empty Nesters
When we talk about empty nesters, we usually think about downsizing. With kids out of the house, extra bedrooms and living space can quickly become more trouble than they’re worth. While the average buyer with young kids is most likely to trade up to a larger home, older buyers often sell the family home and move into a smaller, less expensive home. In fact, more than half of Canadian Baby Boomers consider the area where they live too expensive for retirement.
Maintenance and Livability
What factors are driving your decision to move? Identifying those early in the process can help you narrow down your search. For example, do you want to have space for a garden, or would you prefer to avoid dealing with lawn care altogether? What about home maintenance? In many cases, a newer home will require less maintenance than an older one and a smaller one will take less time to clean. It’s not surprising that condos are among the most popular types of homes for Baby Boomers given they require less upkeep than single-family homes.
Many empty nesters have retired or are nearing retirement age. This could be your chance to finally pursue hobbies and passions that were just too hard to squeeze into a 9-5. If you’re ready to move, consider how you’d like to spend your days and seek out a home that will help make that dream a reality. For some, that might mean living near a golf course or a beach. For others, being able to walk downtown for a nice dinner out is the priority. And with more time to spend as you wish, proximity to a supportive community of friends and family is priceless.
Ability to Age in Place
Let’s face it—we can’t escape ageing. If you’re looking for a home to retire in, accessibility should be top-of-mind. This may mean a single-story home or simply having adequate spaces on the first floor to rearrange as needed. While buying a home that you plan to renovate from the start is a viable option, being forced into renovations (because of the realities of ageing) a few years down the road could seriously dig into your nest egg. Location matters, too—if your family will be providing support, are they close by? Can you easily reach necessities like grocery stores and healthcare? While it’s tempting to put it out of our minds, a few careful considerations now can make staying in your home long-term much more feasible.
Finding the Right Home for Right Now
One thing is for sure—life never stands still. And your housing needs won’t, either. In fact, the average Canadian homeowner will own 4.5 to 5.5 houses over their lifetime. At each milestone, a careful assessment of your housing options will ensure that you are well-positioned to embrace all the changes to come.
Whatever stage you’re embarking on next, I'm here to help. My insight into local neighbourhoods, prices, and housing stock will help you hone in on exactly where you want to live and what kind of home is right for you. I’ve worked with home buyers in every stage of life, so know exactly what questions you need to ask. Buying a home—whether it’s your first or your fifth—is a big decision, but I'm here to support you every step of the way.
Wednesday, April 14, 2021
Financial Health House and Home
When it comes to filing your income tax return, making sure you claim potential benefits and credits is important, as often it can help put more money back into your pocket. With tax season upon us, it's worth setting aside some time to do a bit of homework on the benefits that you may be able to take advantage of.
The great news for seniors is that there are many wonderful tax credits and benefits available. And, even if you have no taxable income, you could still be eligible to receive tax-free money. For many seniors in their retirement years, any opportunity to save money is one you wouldn't want to miss.
As a senior (65 and older) and depending on your total 2020 income, you may be able to file your income tax returns claiming a number of refundable tax credits - and for prior years as well, if you have not previously filed. Let's look at some of the 2020 tax-free credits that are payable to seniors who file income tax returns.
8 Tax credits that are available to seniors in Ontario/Canada in 2020
1. Ontario Senior Homeowners' Property Tax Grant
The OSHPTG is available to Ontario senior homeowners who pay property taxes and who have low or moderate incomes. It is an annual payment that seniors must apply for each year when they file their income tax and benefit return. The maximum 2021 payment is the lesser of $500 and the eligible property tax paid by or for you for 2020. If you are single, separated, divorced, or widowed, the 2021 grant will be the maximum payment reduced by 3.33% of your adjusted net income over $35,000. If you adjusted net income is $50,000 or greater, you are not eligible for this grant.
2. Ontario Sales Tax Credit
The Ontario sales tax credit (OSTC) is a tax-free payment designed to provide relief to Ontarians with low or moderate incomes for the sales tax they pay. Beginning July 2021, seniors whose 2020 income does not exceed $24,115 (individual) or $30,143 (couple) are eligible to receive $26 monthly ($52 monthly for couples). This credit is eliminated for individuals with 2020 income over $41,940 and $45,793 for couples.
3. Ontario Seniors' Public Transit Tax Credit
The Ontario Seniors' Public Transit Tax Credit is a refundable tax credit to help seniors with public transit costs. This tax credit is based on 10% of eligible Ontario transit costs, and are fairs paid for short haul or day trips by bus, subway, train, and specialized public transit services for seniors with disabilities. Fares for using long haul services like Via Rail or Grayhound are not eligible for this tax credit, and the maximum claim is $3000 for maximum credit of $450.
4. Federal Goods and Services Tax Credit
The goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax (GST/HST) credit is a tax-free quarterly payment that helps individuals and families with low and modest incomes offset the GST or HST that they pay. If your income doesn't exceed $38,507 beginning July 2021, and every three months following until April 2022, you are eligible to receive $74 every three months. In addition, if your spouse or partner's income also doesn't exceed $38,507, you are eligible to receive $142 every three months. This credit, however, is reduced by 5% of the amount of your income and if your spouse or partner's income exceeds $38,507. This tax credit is calculated by Revenue Canada based on the information in yours and your partner's tax return.
5. Federal Home Accessibility Tax Credit (HATC)
Available for seniors or individuals with disabilities that are eligible to claim the Disability Tax Credit, this tax credit reduces federal income taxes payable to a maximum of $1,500. This credit is also available to the individual’s spouse or common law partner if that individual has no net income for 2020. The credit is calculated at 15% of qualifying renovation expenditures to a maximum of $10,000 to a person’s owned or occupied housing residence (and share of the capital stock of an occupied unit of a co-op housing corporation) to improve mobility and reduce the risk of injury.
6. Federal & Ontario Disability Tax Credit
Seniors may be eligible for the Federal & Ontario Disability Tax Credit if a qualified medical practitioner certifies on form T2201 that they have a prolonged impairment and that the effects are such that they’re markedly restricted in their ability to speak, hear, see, walk, eat, dress, perform the mental functions necessary for everyday life, and/or have impaired bowel or bladder functions preventing them from proper elimination.
This non-refundable tax credit reduces income tax payable by $1,719 for 2020. If the person applying has no taxable income, the credit can be transferred to another relative who provides support to them.
7. Canada Caregiver Credit
If you support a spouse, common-law partner, or a dependent with a physical or mental impairment, you may be eligible to receive this non-refundable tax credit. You may also be eligible to claim this credit for one or more individuals — including you or your spouse or common law partner’s child, grandchild, parent, grandparent, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, niece or nephew — if they depend on your support because of a physical or mental impairment. An individual is considered to depend on your support if they rely on you to regularly and consistently provide them with some or all of the basic necessities of life, such as food, shelter and clothing.
The amount you can claim depends on your relationship to the person for whom you are claiming the credit, your circumstances, the person’s net income, and whether other credits are being claimed for that person.
8. Property tax relief for homes that are built or modified to accommodate seniors or individuals with disabilities
Property taxpayers who inform the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) that they’ve built or modified their home to accommodate seniors or individuals with disabilities, and who have had their expenditure(s) verified by MPAC, may qualify for a property tax exemption.
The exempt portion, however, is not included in the assessment roll for the next taxation year, and taxes are not charged against it. If MPAC assessed the home as entirely taxable for the current or previous taxation years and the owner is applying for the exemption now, then the owner is encouraged to contract their local municipality to determine if they qualify for a tax rebate for said previous years.
Tips for preparing your income tax return
There’s no question that preparing to file your income tax can feel daunting, stressful, and overwhelming. But remember, there are plenty of tax-free benefits that are available to seniors that can reduce the amount of money you owe. In addition to those mentioned above, remember that there are other benefits as well, such as the Age Amount Tax Credit, the Pension Income Amount Tax Credit, and of course tax refunds for Medical Expenses.
Another important thing to remember is that if you received COVID-19 benefits, it might affect your tax return. In particular, the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) is considered taxable income, therefore the total amounts that you received from this benefit will have to be included on your tax return.
If you have a modest income and a simple tax situation, fortunately there are volunteers near you that may be able to complete your tax return free of charge. This year, to reduce the spread of COVID-19, volunteers may be able to complete your return by video conferencing or phone, or through a document drop-off arraignment. To determine if you’re eligible and to find a tax clinic near you, visit canada.ca/taxes-help.
A big thanks to the Burlington Age Friendly Council and Community Development Halton for making much of the information featured in this blog post available.
If you or an elderly loved one are looking for more support in the way of preparing to file your income tax return, don’t hesitate to reach out to me via email at email@example.com and I’d be more than happy to connect you with a reputable and trusted accountant in the area who may be able to support your needs and help take the guesswork out of preparing your income tax return.
Sunday, April 11, 2021
Financial Health House and Home Real Estate Market Buying and Selling
Today's real estate market is one of the fastest-moving in recent memory. With record-low inventory in many market segments, we're seeing multiple offers (with bidding wars) for homes in the most sought-after neighbourhoods. The has led some sellers to question the need for an agent. After all, why spend money on a listing agent when it seems that you can stick a For Sale sign in the yard then watch a line form around the block?
Some buyers may also believe they'd be better off purchasing a property without an agent. For those seeking a competitive edge, proceeding without a buyer's agent may seem like a good way to stand out from the competition - and maybe even score a discount. Since the seller pays the buyer's agent commission, wouldn't a do-it-yourself purchase sweeten the offer?
We all like to save money. However, when it comes to your largest financial asset, forgoing professional representation may not always be in your best interest. Find out whether the benefits outweigh the risk (and considerable time and effort) of selling or buying a home on your own - so you can head to the closing table with confidence.
SELLING YOUR HOME WITHOUT AN AGENT
Most homeowners who choose to sell their home without any professional assistance opt for a traditional "For Sale By Owner" or a direct sale to an investor, such as an iBuyer, Here's what you can expect from either of these options.
For Sale By Owner (FSBO)
For sale by owner or FSBO (pronounced fizz-bo) offers sellers the opportunity to price their own home and handle their own transaction, showing the home and negotiating directly with the buyer or his or her real estate agent. While Canadian statistics on FSBO's are limited, according to data compiled by the US-based National Association of Realtors (NAR), approximately 8% of homes were sold by their owner in 2020.
In an active, low inventory real estate market, it may seem like a no-brainer to sell your home yourself. After all there are plenty of buyers out there and one of them is bound to be interested in your home. In addition, you'll save on the listing agent's commission and have more control over the way the home is priced and marketed.
One of the biggest problems FSBO's run into, however, is pricing the home appropriately. Without ongoing access to current information about comparable properties in your area, you could end up over pricing your home (causing it to languish on the market) or underpricing your home (leaving thousands of dollars on the table).
Even during last year's strong seller's market, the median sales price for FSBO's was 10% less than the median price of homes sold with the help of an real estate agent. And during a more balanced market, like the one we experienced in 2018, homes sold for 24% less than agent-represented properties. This suggests that, while you may think that you'll price and market your home more effectively yourself, in fact you may end up losing far more than the amount you would pay for an agent's assistance.
Without the services of a real estate professional, it will be up to you to get people in the door. You'll need to gather information for the online listing and put together the kind of marketing that today's buyers expect to see. This includes bringing in a professional stager and photographer, writing the listing description, and designing marketing collateral like fliers and mailers - or hiring a writer and graphic designer to do so.
Once someone is interested, you'll need to offer virtual showings and develop a COVID safety protocol. You'll then need to schedule an in-person showing (or in some cases, two or three) for each potential buyer. In addition, you'll be on your own when evaluating offers and determining their financial viability. You'll need to thoroughly understand all legal contracts and contingencies and discuss terms, including those regarding the home inspection and closing process.
While you're doing all this work, it's likely that you'll still need to pay the buyer's agent's commission. So be sure to weigh your potential savings against the significant risk and effort involved.
If you choose to work with a listing agent, you'll save significant time and effort while minimizing your personal risk and liability. And the increased profits realized through a more effective marketing and negotiation strategy could more than make up for the cost of your agent's commission.
iBuyers have been on the Canadian real estate scene since around 2018, providing sellers with the option of a direct purchase from a real estate company rather than a traditional direct-to-consumer sales process. iBuyer companies tout their convenience and speed, with a reliable streamlined process that may be attractive to some sellers.
The idea is that instead of listing the home on the open market, the homeowner completes and online form with the information about the property's location and features, then waits for an offer from the company. The iBuyer is looking for a home in good condition that's located in a good neighbourhood - one that's easy to flip and falls within the company's algorithm.
For sellers who are more focused on speed and convenience, an iBuyer may offer an attractive alternative to traditional real estate sales. That's because iBuyers evaluate a property quickly and make an upfront offer without requesting repairs or other accommodations.
However, sellers will pay for that convenience with, generally a far lower sale price than the market will provide as well as feed that can add up to as much or more than a traditional real estate agent's commission. According to a study conducted by MarketWatch, iBuyers netted, on average, 11% less than a traditional sale when both the lower price and fees are considered. Other studies found some iBuyers charging as much as 15% in fees and associated costs, far more than you'll pay for a real estate agent's commission.
In a hot market, this can mean leaving tens of thousands of dollars on the table since you won't be able to negotiate and you'll lose out on rising home prices caused by low inventory and increased demand. In addition, iBuyers are demonstrably less reliable during times of economic uncertainty, as evidenced by the halt of operations for most iBuyer platforms in early 2020. As a seller, the last thing you want is to start down the road of iBuying only to find that the corporate mandate is stopping your transaction in its tracks.
If you choose to work with a real estate agent, you can still explore iBuyers as an option. That way you can take advantage of the added convenience of a fast sale while still enjoying the protection and security of having a professional negotiating on your behalf.
BUYING YOUR HOME WITHOUT AN AGENT
According to the most recent statistics, 88% of home buyers use a real estate agent when conducting their home search. A buyer's agent is with you every step of the way through the home buying process. From finding the perfect home to submitting a winning offer to navigating the inspection and closing processes, most homebuyers find their experience and guidance invaluable. And the best part is that, because they are compensated through a commission paid by the homeowner at closing, most agents provide these services at no cost to you!
Still you may be considering negotiating your home purchase directly with the seller or listing agent, especially if you are accustomed to deal-making as part of your job. And if you are familiar with the neighbourhood where you are searching, you may feel that there is no reason to get a buyer's agent involved.
However, putting together a winning offer package can be challenging. This is especially true in a multiple-offer situation where you'll be competing against buyers whose offers are carefully crafted to maximize their appeal. And the homebuying process can get emotional. A trusted agent can help you avoid overpaying for a property or glossing over 'red flags' in your inspection. In addition, buyer agents offer a streamlined, professional process that listing agents may be more likely recommend to their clients.
If you decide to forgo an agent, you'll have to write, submit, and negotiate a competitive offer all on your own. You'll also need to schedule an inspection and negotiate repairs. You'll be responsible for reviewing and preparing all necessary documents, and you will need to be in constant communication with the seller's agent and your lender, inspector, appraiser, title company, and other related parties along the way.
Or, you could choose to work with a buyer's agent whose commission is paid by the seller and costs you nothing out of pocket. In exchange, you'll obtain fiduciary-level guidance on one of the most important financial transactions of your life. If you decide to go it alone, you'll be playing fast and loose with what is, for most people, their most important and consequential financial decision.
SO, IS A REAL ESTATE AGENT RIGHT FOR YOU?
It is important for you to understand your options and think through your preferences when considering whether or not to work with a real estate professional. If you are experienced in real estate transactions and legal contracts, comfortable negotiating under high-stakes circumstances, and have plenty of extra time on your hands, you may find that an iBuyer or FSBO works for you.
However, if, like most people, you value expert guidance and would like an experienced professional to manage the process, you will probably experience far more peace of mince and security in working with a reliable real estate agent or broker.
A real estate agent's comprehensive suite of services and expert negotiation skills can benefit buyers and sellers financially, as well. On average, sellers who utilize an agent walk away with more money than those who choose the FSBO or iBuyer route. And buyers pay nothing out of pocket for expert representation that can help them avoid expensive mistakes all along the way from contract to closing.
According to NAR's profile, the vast majority of buyer (91%) and seller (89%) are thrilled with their real estate professional's representation and would recommend them to others. That's why, in terms of rime, money, and expertise, most buyers and sellers find the assistance of a real estate agent essential and invaluable.
QUESTIONS ABOUT BUYING OR SELLING? WE HAVE ANSWERS
The best way to find out whether you need a real estate agent or broker is to speak with one. We're here to help and to offer the insights you need to make better-informed decisions. Let's talk about the value-added services we provide when we help you buy or sell in today's competitive real estate landscape.
Wednesday, February 17, 2021
Financial Health House and Home Real Estate Market
This article is reproduced with permission. Originally written and published by Christine Brunsden (TEP, CEA, EPC, MFA-P), Founder of Trusted Legacy & Co-Founder of Legacy You.
For decades people have talked about 'estate planning' - the act of devising a plan to distribute stuff upon passing. Increasingly, it is an outdated notion - one that is being replaced by a more powerful idea. It is called 'legacy planning.'
Legacy planning encompasses estate planning - the distribution of assets - as well as the morals, ideals, beliefs, philosophies, and core values they would like to impress upon their heirs. It also sets the state to craft a family narrative that speaks to much more that just the distribution of assets on death. We call it creating a 'legacy mission statement.'
For many, legacy planning places an emphasis on philanthropy, which is driven by contemplating one's social capital. Social capital is defined as the relationships between individuals and organizations that facilitate action and value. Luckily, Canada's tax system is very generous in support of philanthropy; yet, most people are unaware of the rules and laws designed to encourage us to give, especially on death.
What is a legacy plan?
Think of your legacy plan as the road-map you carefully design to achieve your objectives and to provide important information to those who will act on your behalf when you are no longer capable or have passed away.
Here are some of the essential elements to be considered when planning your legacy:
- Self-reflection and determination of your core values and beliefs as they relate to personal family and community relationships important to you
- Wills, trusts, and powers of attorney
- Beneficiary and guardianship designations
- Charitable foundations or donor-advised funds and your recognition preferences
- Personal information
- Beneficiary information
- Inventory of assets and liabilities
- List of digital assets, computer information, social media platforms and passwords
- Memberships, subscriptions and loyalty programs
- Instructions for location pertinent documents and/or assets
Letters of Wishes, memorandums, care plans, living arrangement preferences, pet provisions, funeral/burial wishes.
Some additional elements you may wish to include in your legacy plan are:
- Medical history information
- Legacy stories
- Letters or video messages for loved ones (how would you like to be remembered?)
Why do I need a legacy plan?
Without a valid power of attorney, someone will need to apply to a court for permission to act as your legal representative or guardian.
Without a valid Will, you are deemed to have passed 'intestate' and provincial legislation will set out how your estate will be distributed, which may not align with your wishes. You will not have the ability to appoint executors, trustees, or guardians for your children under the age of 18. You will also not have the ability to engage in effective tax planning or provide gifts to the individuals or charities of your choice. By failing to plan, you leave your affairs in limbo, until a person or governmental body can be appointed, which results in further delay and potential increased cost to your estate.
If you are comfortable doing so, communicate your plan ahead of time to the individuals who will act on your behalf. It is also advisable to communicate your plan to your heirs when they are of an appropriate age. The will allow those who are impacted by your plan to ask questions and seek clarification from you while you are still able to provide it.
Keep your plan in a secure location (not a safety deposit box) and provide its location to those who will require access to it.
When is the best time to start planning?
Planning should be considered a lifelong activity - one that begins when you are legally able to sign documents and ends upon death.
Can you imagine if each of us decided today it was important to make a plan for the loved ones we leave behind? Imagine what could be achieved if we led by example and engrained in future generations how important it is to plan, organize, and communicate all aspects of a legacy plan. It would be empowering for our loved ones and the causes we love.
Who can assist me in developing my plan?
You can engage a legacy planning professional, wealth advisor, accountant or lawyer to assist you in planning your legacy. The TEP designation (Trust and Estate Practitioner) demonstrates the professional has an advanced understanding of trust and estates, and they take a proactive approach, working at the forefront of the latest developments in the industry.
Remember that the best planning allows for collaboration amongst all your trusted experts. It is important to ensure your plan is reviewed regularly and updated over your lifetime, based on changes to your individual circumstances and legislation.
If you have questions about legacy planning, please reach out to Christine Brunsden. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org