Divorced or widowed? Five steps to protecting your finances.

Divorced or widowed? Five steps to protecting your finances.

 Losing a spouse through death or divorce can be an emotionally devastating experience. And yet it’s typically a time when many financial matters require your immediate attention. To help avoid making emotionally driven – and potentially harmful – financial decisions, it’s important to be prepared should you find yourself suddenly single. Here are five important action steps that can help protect your personal finances.

  1. Update your financial accounts.

When you lose a spouse, whether, through death or divorce, you’ll likely need to change the registrations on any financial accounts that are owned jointly. Such ownership changes typically require certain documentation. It’s best to initiate this process early on, as registration changes can take weeks to implement. A word of caution: Pay attention to the conditions under which you divide assets and/or shift ownership. You could face significant tax burdens when splitting up highly appreciated assets, or risk losses by selling in volatile markets. You should consult your tax advisor.

  1. Divide or roll over retirement assets.
    Pension and retirement account assets have their own set of rules when it comes to shifting ownership from one spouse to the other, or splitting the assets. Generally, upon the death of the account owner, retirement account assets pass directly to the beneficiary (often the spouse, for those who were married) designated on the account, while in cases of divorce, retirement assets are often split up as part of the divorce settlement.
  1. Adjust your income and budget.

In many cases, being suddenly single could mean reduced household income. You may need to adjust your budget accordingly. Start by listing your essential expenses (housing, food, insurance, transportation, etc.) and your discretionary expenses (dinners out, vacations, clothing, etc.). Try to match reliable sources of income (salary, support payments, pension, etc.) to your essential expenses, and see where you might trim your discretionary spending. Speak with your financial advisor to help you set up a budget that works for you.

  1. Evaluate your insurance needs.
    What you’ll have and what you’ll need for insurance can change dramatically when you lose a spouse through death or divorce. It’s important to take a careful look at all the different types of insurance that are available, to see where you may need to adjust your coverage. Be sure to review the following:

LIFE INSURANCE  – If you are the surviving spouse and the beneficiary on your deceased spouse’s life insurance policy, you will typically receive the proceeds, tax-free. But if you are still caring for children, you may want to either purchase or increase your own life insurance coverage to make sure they will be protected in the event of your death. If you divorce, you have to consider (1) changing the beneficiary on your life insurance, if it is currently your ex-spouse, and (2) purchasing or modifying your coverage to adequately protect your children if either you or your ex-spouse dies.

HEALTH INSURANCE – Even if your spouse carried your family’s health insurance coverage, you should be able to continue it for a period of time, whether you are divorced or become widowed. Talk to an insurance expert to ensure you have adequate coverage to meet your unique needs.

DISABILITY INSURANCE – What if you were injured or sick and couldn’t go to work? Disability insurance is designed to protect you and your loved ones against loss of income.

LONG-TERM CARE INSURANCE –If you’re in your 50s or older, you may want to consider buying long-term care insurance to help keep potential costs of nursing home stays and home health care from depleting your income resources if you become seriously ill or injured.

  1. Review your credit. 

When you’re suddenly single, your credit can be among your most valuable assets, so protect it wisely. After a divorce or the death of a spouse, you may want to request a copy of your credit report to take inventory of all the accounts that are open in your name and/or jointly with your former spouse.

If you’re divorced, you’ll want to close joint credit accounts and shift to single accounts, so that an ex-spouse’s credit score won’t affect your credit rating. If you’re widowed, contact both Canadian credit bureaus (Equifax Canada and TransUnion Canada) to let them know that your spouse has passed away, in order to keep others from falsely establishing credit in his or her name.

Article courtesy of Fidelity Investments Canada. https://www.fidelity.ca/fidca/en/valueofadvice/gvga/divorcedwidowed

Mutual funds and/or approved exempt market products are offered through Investia Financial Services Inc.  Insurance products are provided through multiple insurance carriers.

Beneficiary “Benefits” – Where’s the Money?

Beneficiary “Benefits” – Where’s the Money?

Did you know that all your assets are deemed to have been disposed of one minute prior to death?  This has significant repercussions for those left behind to sometimes scrounge to find money to pay the terminal tax return or to pay bills that were not taken care of.

Money on deposit with a life insurance company is treated the same as a life insurance policy.  This means that a beneficiary can be named and proceeds will be paid directly on death without the need for probate or the services of a lawyerA beneficiary designation can be changed at any time avoiding the cost of re-writing a Will. Deposits with a life insurer can also be protected from creditors by using certain beneficiary designations.

Here are some examples where this type of solution worked effectively for these individuals:

PAT

Pat died in mid-2015 and most of her assets passed through her Will and were therefore subject to probate.  More than $200,000 was in GICs and a fairly rapid transfer of this money to her heirs would be expected. Unfortunately, they had to wait until the spring of 2017 to receive the funds.  Not only did the GICs attract legal and probate fees in excess of $10,000, but while they were waiting for their share, her kids had to pay income tax on interest earned on the money.  This proved to be a hardship for some of them who were of limited means or single parents.

Pat also had two life insurance policies.  The claim forms for the insurance were sent to the insurer on within 2 weeks of her passing and cheques were delivered to the named beneficiaries less than 4 weeks after her death.  What a difference.

BEN

Ben used named beneficiaries as part of his estate plan to ensure that his money went where he wished without the need for legal fees or probate costs and delays.  When he died, his wishes were granted within a matter of a few weeks with no cost to his estate or beneficiaries.

GARY & SIMONE

Gary & Simon had to file for personal bankruptcy and most of their assets were seized including bank accounts and GICs.  Their life insurance policies and investment plans (both RSP and non-RSP) were safe since they were with an insurance company.  As life insurance policies with each other named as beneficiary, they were protected in this circumstance.  As husband and wife, they are “preferred” beneficiaries, which is one of the reasons their plans with the life insurance company were protected from seizure.

HARRY

Harry worries about his beneficiary’s ability to manage money and wants to make sure that the insurance proceeds will last.  He also wants to avoid the cost and potential tax issues of establishing a trust after he dies.  Hussein was able to address his concerns by utilising special beneficiary arrangements.  He directed that the death benefits would be paid out over a period of years in equal monthly instalments – no management costs, no trustee or legal fees and no ability for the beneficiary to get a lump-sum.

The option to provide income rather than a lump sum may be more appropriate in many situations.  Another option is a lump sum for part of the proceeds (to provide for the immediate cash needs) and the rest paid out as a lifetime income.

 

Would you like assistance in protecting your assets and reducing estate costs?

The “If” or “When” Insurance debate

The “If” or “When” Insurance debate

Many people ask this question but the answer is far from simple.  Every individual has unique circumstances and therefore there is no one answer that fits everyone.  There are two types of life insurance – “if insurance” and “when insurance”.

“If”  insurance is used to cover needs that have relatively short durations – typically 20 to 25 years or less.  Needs such as Debt Elimination – don’t leave your heirs with debts to pay – mortgage, car loans, lines of credit, credit cards – you get the picture.  If you have children, then both child and home care together with education funding come into play.  All of these are usually for a defined period of fewer than 25 years unless you have a special needs dependent.

“When” insurance is available to cover those costs that will be around for 20 years and longer.  Items such as final expenses in settling your estate, special needs, charitable bequests and lifetime survivor income requirements all fall into this “when” category since they never go away and usually increase in cost due to inflation if for no other reasons.

Needs such as continuing income for a surviving spouse, actually need some of both types of insurance.  Some “if insurance” to provide income up to the spouse’s retirement age and “when insurance” for the rest of his or her life.

Our most insidious heir – the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) – never relinquishes its’ hold on our financial legacy (unless we die completely broke) so “when” insurance is best suited to cover their claims.

What is “if insurance”?  “If” you die within a specific period, the insurance is available.  It is generally the least expensive type since the level of risk to the insurance company is constantly decreasing the longer we live.  Available in terms from 5 years to 30 years – or to some fixed age such as 75, this is more commonly called term insurance.  It gets its name from the fact the coverage is only in force for a specific period or term.  Premiums increase periodically depending on the type of term insurance chosen.

So what about “when insurance”?  This provides benefits “when” you die, regardless of your age – more often this is called permanent insurance or whole life insurance since it lasts for the whole of your life.  It is more expensive than term insurance and the reason is the coverage never runs out, so it costs more.  This type of insurance generally has level premiums and includes the option of increasing the death benefit each year so it can offset some higher costs and inflation adjustments.

 

Would you benefit from assistance making the best choice for you and your family?