My name is Mark Goodfield. Welcome to The Blunt Bean Counter ™, a blog that shares my thoughts on income taxes, finance and the psychology of money. I am a Chartered Professional Accountant. This blog is meant for everyone, but in particular for high net worth individuals and owners of private corporations. My posts are blunt, opinionated and even have a twist of humour/sarcasm. You've been warned. Please note the blog posts are time sensitive and subject to changes in legislation or law.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Financial & Tax Planning for the Terminally Ill - Part 1 - Getting Organized

Many of us do not consider our own mortality. Yet, if you or someone you know has been diagnosed as terminally ill, you are forced to face the reality of your/their impending passing. While the emotional and health issues are first and foremost, to lessen the burden for your family, friends and/or executor(s), it is very important to undertake both financial and tax planning.

A diagnosis of a terminal illness quite bluntly means that you are probably going to pass away in the near term. The near term for a terminal illness is defined by different medical practitioners and medical organizations as anywhere from 6 months to two years. Most likely you will not be able to work full-time (or you will want to stop working at some point) and may incur additional medical or nursing care related expenses that are not covered by the Canadian health care system.

Consequently, you may need to liquidate investments, retirement assets or draw on insurance policies to fund your day to day living and medical expenses. For the purposes of this post, I am going to assume you are lucky enough to have sufficient liquid resources to live comfortably until that fateful day.

If you have stress tested your death, as I have suggested in prior blog posts, the anxiety related to getting your financial house in order will at least be minimized. However, for today’s blog, I am going to assume you have done little to plan for your demise, and I’ll provide a comprehensive list of things you need to organize and consider.

Legal Documents to Prepare, Update, Review or Gather

1. Will(s) – Have an updated one in place

Hopefully you already have a will(s). If not, ensure you immediately have a one drafted. If you live in a province that allows you a second will (i.e.: In some provinces you are allowed to have a second will for the shares of your private company in order to minimize probate taxes; although the new rules for inter vivos trusts must be reviewed) consider whether a second will is applicable to your situation.

Where you have a will in place, ensure you review your will one final time to determine if it is up to date and reflects your current wishes. If you have not designated personal property such as jewelry and art in your will, you may now want to specify how that property is allocated; rather than leaving it to your family to sort out, possibly creating issues for your executor.

Although most terminal illnesses do not affect your mental capacity, I have seen circumstances where lawyers are concerned about the mental capacity of their clients and your lawyer may request a capacity test prior to allowing you to change your will.

2. Personal documents – Organize and store

Once you pass away, many financial institutions and government bodies will request legal documents (passports, birth certificates, drivers licence, etc.). You will therefore want to store all these documents in one place (safety deposit box) and make your executor or family aware of the location of these documents.

3. Powers of Attorney (“POA”) – Get your financial and personal care wishes down on paper

If you do not already have POA’s in place for both financial and health decisions, you will want to have both documents drafted as soon as possible. Whether you are just drafting a POA or reviewing a previously granted POA, ensure you are comfortable with your attorney (the person you have appointed) selection.

You will want to make your attorney for personal care (health) aware of your wishes for medical purposes.

4. Funeral Arrangements – Inform your executor or family about your preferences

You may have already prepaid your funeral or have specific wishes. You need to ensure any outstanding payments are made on prepaid plans and discuss your funeral wishes with your family or executor so they are aware of any specific wishes. Banks will typically allow your estate to pay for your funeral from your bank account; however, you may wish to give the money while alive to your executor so they do not have to deal with the bank.

If you were undecided about organ donations, this would be a time to make a final determination.

5. Insurance – Create a folder and summary with all your documents together with contact information

You may have life, disability, critical illness or any number and types of insurance in place. In order to assist your family and/or executor, you should create a file with all your policies, the amount of insurance and the contact information of your insurance agent where applicable.

In some cases your beneficiary designations under your insurance policies may be outdated (for example, many people still have their ex-spouse as a beneficiary) and need to be reviewed and changed. Many people also do not have updated beneficiaries for their RRSPs and RRIFs.

6. Real Estate – Organize all your deeds in a single file for easy reference

To assist your executor(s), you will want to create a file of title and purchase documents relating to your home, cottage and/or rental properties you own.

7. Information Check List – provide a list of helpful contacts

To help alleviate additional stress for your loved ones, I strongly suggest putting together an information checklist of:
  •  your key contacts (lawyer, accountant, insurance agent, investment advisor, banker etc.)
  •  location of assets (your bank accounts, investment accounts, and retirement account), credit cards
  •  location of safety deposit box etc.
If you do not have something in place, this would be the time to prepare your list, as a courtesy to your executor(s), so they are not playing a game of hide and seek with your assets.

You will also want to summarize and provide documentation regarding any liabilities you have, such as mortgages, bank loans and lines of credit.

Finally, it’s a good idea to introduce your key contacts to your executor and/or spouse so they have familiarity with them.

8. Digital Information – provide a protected list of your passwords

As discussed in my blog Alzheimers and Death in the Digital World you will want to consider how you deal with the issue of passwords in respect of your online financial accounts and Internet/social sites.

I am going to stop here today. Next week I will discuss financial and tax planning issues you will want to consider if you or anyone you know is terminally ill.

This site provides general information on various tax issues and other matters. The information is not intended to constitute professional advice and may not be appropriate for a specific individual or fact situation. It is written by the author solely in their personal capacity and cannot be attributed to the accounting firm with which they are affiliated. It is not intended to constitute professional advice, and neither the author nor the firm with which the author is associated shall accept any liability in respect of any reliance on the information contained herein. Readers should always consult with their professional advisors in respect of their particular situation. Please note the blog post is time sensitive and subject to changes in legislation or law.


  1. Will you be going into setting up a family trust? I do not understand what it is and why it would be a good idea. IE someone who has assets of a few million, why would it be a good or not good idea to set up a family trust. Can this save taxes, smooth over transition, save on probate?

  2. Hi Anon

    I have written about family trusts several times in the context of owning corporate shares or for making loans to children. Thus, I will not be discussing them in this article, but may consider revisiting the issue in the future.

  3. Well financial tax planning should be done in very correct manner because if this is not done than one has to pay heavy tax. The tips that you have mention are quite good. Thank you so much for posting.