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Limiting CRA’s Share of Your Estate
When you die, Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will tax your estate as if you had sold all your capital property - stocks, business and real estate, excluding your family home. As a result, your estate may end up with such a big tax bill that some valued assets may have to be sold to pay the taxes.

Planning can help reduce these taxes. Here are some things to consider:

Principal Residence

Your primary residence is exempt from capital gains tax and can be transferred to any beneficiary tax-free. It is usually better to hold your principal residence jointly with your spouse or partner so it will bypass your estate and go directly to him or her, thereby avoiding probate fees.

Spousal Transfer

If you are married, identify your spouse as beneficiary of your RRSPs and RRIFs. This way, the money can be transferred to your survivor's plan and tax will be deferred until your spouse either withdraws the money or dies. (If you die with unused RRSP contribution room, your executor can make a final contribution to your RRSP on your behalf before it is rolled over.)
Alternatively, you can name a minor child or grandchild who is financially dependent on you as the beneficiary of your registered savings plan. Your executor can use the money to buy an annuity for the child until he or she reaches 18, thereby spreading the tax over several years.

If you leave assets in an RRSP or RRIF to a child or grandchild who was financially dependent on you at the time of your death and who is mentally or physically disabled, the assets can be transferred tax-free to an RRSP in their name. In this case, there is no age restriction.

Non-registered assets can be rolled over to your spouse at no cost and any capital gains tax deferred until your spouse dies.

Estate Freezing

Estate freezing is often used when a person owns a business that is growing and wants his or her children to eventually take it over. Estate freezing fixes the value of an asset at its present level so that future capital gains are taxed in the hands of your heirs. An estate freeze can be done by issuing shares, setting up a holding company, or creating a family trust.

Life Insurance

As life insurance payouts are not taxable, often people will purchase life insurance to offset the taxes that will be payable on their estate, thus preserving the value of the assets for their heirs.

Charitable Gifts and Bequests

You can receive a tax credit for charitable donations made through your will of up to 100 per cent of your net income. The credit is claimed on your final tax return.


Trusts can be a tax-effective way to provide for your heirs. When you transfer assets to a trust, the income is taxed in the hands of the trust or its beneficiary. For example, living trusts, or trusts that come into effect while you are alive, let you split income with family members who are in a lower tax bracket.

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney authorizes someone to make important health and financial decisions on your behalf should you become unable to do so because of physical or mental problems.
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