BMO Financial Group

BMO Financial Group
BMO Bank of Montreal

BMO Bank of Montreal

December 23, 2012 07:00 ET

Global Family Trees: BMO Study Shows Canadians with Family and Investments Abroad Unfamiliar with Tax and Estate Laws

- One quarter of Canadians have family and assets abroad

- More than one-third of international asset holders are not familiar with the taxes and laws pertaining to their wills

- Assets abroad can include second properties, bank accounts and investments

- Corporate executorship is key to managing an estate with global components

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Dec. 23, 2012) - With the holiday season now upon us, many Canadians have travelled abroad to visit family and friends. But while more than one-quarter (26 per cent) of Canadians have either family members or assets outside of Canada, a study by BMO Harris Private Banking found that more than one-third (36 per cent) of international asset holders are not familiar with the taxes and laws pertaining to wills that include assets or properties outside of Canada.

"Those fortunate enough to own assets or property outside of Canada - or those thinking about it - need to do their due diligence to ensure their estate will be settled as they have planned," said Sara Plant, Vice President and National Director, BMO Harris Private Banking. "If your beneficiaries live abroad, it is critical to be aware of tax issues, inheritance laws and other legalities to avoid any potential issues with your estate plan."

According to the study, one-in-five (19 per cent) Canadians have assets abroad, including:

  • Vacation home/second property
  • Bank account
  • Investments
  • Other real estate holdings
  • Business holdings

Family abroad

Statistics Canada predicts that the Canadian population will grow 0.7 per cent in each of the next two years, with 82 per cent of that growth expected to come from immigration.

An increase in immigration could contribute to the proliferation of global families with relatives staying behind in home countries, noted Ms. Plant.

The BMO study found that 16 per cent of Canadians currently have family members living outside of Canada whom they have named or plan to name as beneficiaries in their will, including children, parents and other relatives.

"Today's families are becoming much more global, with children heading to the United States or overseas for school and work, and many adults purchasing property for family vacations or retirement," said Ms. Plant. "From an estate planning perspective, there are many important considerations that Canadians must keep in mind to ensure that their assets and property will be easily transferred to their beneficiaries down the road."

Ms. Plant offers the following tips for Canadians for creating a will that incorporates global components:

  • Seek Guidance Early: Be sure to obtain professional advice from lawyers and tax advisors - both in Canada and in the country where the assets are situated - before signing on the dotted line. Investigate the inheritance rules in that country to see how they may affect your estate and beneficiaries.
  • Communicate: Have discussions with your immediate family about foreign holdings. This lets those who will be impacted by your passing know the plan and avoids surprises later on.
  • Consider a Corporate Executor: Settling an estate can be complicated and require knowledge of tax, inheritance and family property laws. When global assets are included, one of the challenges is finding the best people to administer those assets at the time of need and protect the interests of beneficiaries. A corporate executor provides peace of mind knowing that the estate will be settled efficiently and impartially.
  • Review Regularly: While it is a best practice to review your will every time you file taxes, most people revisit theirs every seven to 10 years. This typically occurs when there is a life change, new assets are purchased (whether held in Canada or abroad) or when there are additions to the family that might impact estate planning. Take that time to make sure your wishes are in place and to make any necessary amendments.

"You have built your wealth - why not safeguard your prosperity for the future?" added Ms. Plant. "All Canadians should have a well-structured estate plan that takes into account their beneficiaries' unique circumstances and any associated inheritance and tax implications. Having a corporate executor in place can help make the transfer of assets go smoothly."

For more information on BMO Estate Planning:

Get the latest BMO press releases via Twitter by following @BMOmedia.

The results cited in this release are from an online Pollara survey with a random sample of 1,004 Canadians 18 years of age and older, conducted between September 18th and September 24th, 2012. A probability sample of this size would yield results accurate to ± 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Contact Information