We spend most of our annual allocation of pixels talking about saving for retirement. But there’s an equally important consideration for all of us to think about – what happens to our retirement savings when we die?
Naming a beneficiary is a very important thing, but it is also an incredibly complex topic.
Writing in the Globe and Mail, Rob Carrick says that TFSAs, RRSPs and RRIFs all have a place for you to designate a beneficiary “buried in the boilerplate of the application form.” Don’t “blow it” by rushing past beneficiary designation without “considering the implications,” he writes.
Carrick notes that single people can name anyone as their RRSP beneficiary. If they don’t name a beneficiary, any leftover balance in the RRSP will go to the individual’s estate. Where there is a spouse, Carrick writes, a spouse who is the beneficiary can receive the RRSP balance in a tax-deferred way, it can be “rolled over” to the spouse’s registered retirement vehicle, and taxes are deferred “until the surviving spouse removes money from the plan,” the article notes.
Similar rules are in place for RRIFs.
Jim Yih, blogger for Retire Happy also stresses the importance of a beneficiary choice.
“The designation of the beneficiary in your RRSPs and RRIFs is one of the most important factors in how much taxes you are going to have to pay at the time of death,” he writes. “Yet, it is astonishing how many people make this decision without regard to the overall estate plan or simply forget to designate a beneficiary.”
The Boomer & Echo blog also underlines the importance of this choice.
“Naming a beneficiary is a very important part of tax and estate planning. The RRSP (or RRIF) will not form part of the estate assets, which may require probate. The assets will transfer directly to the beneficiary, which may result in significant savings,” the blog notes.
The Saskatchewan Pension Plan, a specified pension plan, has similar rules.
In the SPP Member Guide we learn that “if you name your spouse as beneficiary of your SPP account… death benefits (can) be transferred, directly, to his or her SPP account, RRSP, RRIF or guaranteed life annuity contract.”
As well, a variety of annuities are available through SPP which allow you to provide for your surviving spouse or other beneficiary. The Retirement Guide explains that you can choose a “life only” annuity, where only you receive monthly payments, a “refund life annuity” that provides a lump sum benefit for your beneficiary, and a “joint and last survivor” annuity that provides “your surviving spouse or common law partner… a monthly payment for the rest of his or her life.”
Let’s end with an important warning, here. The rules for beneficiary designation vary from province to province, and for the type of savings vehicle you have. It’s important to understand the consequences of making, or not making, a beneficiary choice. Be sure to talk to your retirement savings provider about this, be it a workplace pension, an RRSP, or the SPP. You might want to get some professional advice before making your choice.
Survivor benefits can be a huge help to the folks we leave behind when we pass away, so be sure to make an informed choice.
|Written by Martin Biefer
|Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22|