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Tax Challenges


Unraveling the Tax Web: Common Tax Challenges When Dealing with a Loved One’s Estate

A recent article in the Globe & Mail about a person not adding his/her beneficiaries to the RRIF they had just moved their RRSP into, brought up the discussion around what are all those hidden taxes we tend to not think about until a family member passes. There can be several tax-related surprises and considerations that arise after someone passes away. These surprises can affect the deceased person’s Estate, the beneficiaries, and the individuals responsible for managing the Estate. Here are some of the most common Tax Challenges that can occur after someone dies:

Final Income Tax Return: The deceased person’s final income tax return must be filed. Any income they earned in the year of their death, as well as any prior unreported income, needs to be included.

Estate Taxes: In many countries, including the United States and Canada, Estates above a certain threshold are subject to Estate Taxes. It’s essential to understand the applicable Estate tax laws and requirements in your jurisdiction. This really comes into play when you own homes in Ontario and Florida for example.

Capital Gains Tax: The disposition of assets as part of the Estate may trigger capital gains tax. For example, if a property or investment is sold, the difference between the purchase price and the selling price may be subject to capital gains tax. You will need to check with your lawyer and accountant.

Tax on Retirement Accounts: Beneficiaries who inherit retirement accounts, such as an RRSP in Canada or an IRA in the United States, may be required to pay income tax on the distributions they receive from these accounts. Generally, in Ontario, if you have beneficiaries identified on your insurance, RRSP, RRIF, and TFSA products there is no Probate tax required, and funds go directly to the recipients. However, not having these parties clearly identified will result in the funds being made part of the Estate and they will then be taxed. WARNING THOUGH: Not all recipients of these funds receive them without taxes payable on the funds received.

Debts and Liabilities: Outstanding debts and liabilities of the deceased can affect the Estate’s value and may need to be settled, impacting the distribution of assets to beneficiaries. So yes, you will be responsible for a loved one’s debt.

Probate Fees: In some jurisdictions, Probate fees or Estate Administration Fees or court costs may be associated with the Probate process, which can vary based on the value of the Estate. Generally, it is about 1.5% of the total Estate value.  If there is a home involved in the Estate, then Probate fees cannot be avoided.

Tax on Life Insurance: The proceeds of life insurance policies can be tax-free for beneficiaries in some cases, but there may be exceptions. For instance, if the deceased owned the policy, the proceeds might be included in the Estate for tax purposes. Generally, these go directly to beneficiaries without taxes having to be paid.

Gift Tax: In some jurisdictions, the gifts made by the deceased within a certain period before death can be subject to gift tax. This can affect the overall value of the Estate.

Residency and Foreign Assets: If the deceased had foreign assets, there may be tax implications, and residency status at the time of death can also influence tax obligations. For example, the sale of a property in Florida will have 15% of the total value withheld until your accountant and lawyer sort out the process. This tax on foreign owners is called FRIPTA.

Tax Credits and Deductions: Some tax credits and deductions may no longer be available or may change for the surviving spouse or beneficiaries after the death of the taxpayer.

Inherited Assets: Beneficiaries of the Estate may face taxes on income generated by inherited assets, and the cost basis for these assets might differ from the original owners. Again, an Accountant and lawyer may be needed to sort this out.

Tax Reporting and Deadlines: Properly reporting and filing taxes for the deceased and the Estate is crucial. Missing deadlines or making errors can result in penalties and interest charges.

It’s essential to consult with a tax professional or an Estate Attorney to navigate these tax considerations effectively. They can help you understand the specific tax laws and regulations in your jurisdiction and guide you through the process of settling the deceased person’s financial affairs while minimizing tax surprises and liabilities. Additionally, a well-thought-out Estate plan can help minimize tax obligations and streamline the distribution of assets to beneficiaries.

Read about what happens when Canada Revenue is a Beneficiary of Your Estate

Probate Tax Calculator www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/estates/calculate.php

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By telephone 416-526-3121
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This material is for general information and educational purposes only. Information is based on data gathered from what we believe are reliable sources. It is not guaranteed as to accuracy, does not purport to be complete and is not intended to be used as a primary basis for investment decisions.