Estate Planning 101

Keith Thomson is an internationally recognized financial educator, author, and consultant, specializing in estate and charitable tax planning. We recently sat down with Keith to talk about how charitable gift planning can help families become better stewards of their wealth, reduce or eliminate taxes, and leave a lasting legacy.

What’s the state of charitable gift planning in Canada?
Canadians are a very generous people. Each year, about $9 billion is donated to charitable organizations across the country. One of the ways Canadians can support their favourite causes while minimizing tax liability is a bequest— a charitable gift typically made through someone’s will. Yet despite the potential tax benefits that accrue from careful gift planning, less than half of Canadians have a will, and of those people, only 8 percent include a planned gift to a charity.

What are the barriers that keep Canadians away from this type of giving?
There are a number of reasons. The decision to make a bequest is deeply personal, and estate planning is an issue that many Canadians feel uncomfortable talking about. Also, the process can seem intimidating for many.

Is there a simpler way of leaving a legacy?
There’s one approach that I call the “60 Second Bequest,” where a charity can quickly be added as a beneficiary to your Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) or your Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF). The bequest bypasses you and provides tax relief against any taxes owing on the registered plan. It’s a fast, discreet way for people who want to make a planned gift, with absolutely no cost to the individual.

What’s involved in a 60 Second Bequest?
It’s something that can be done in as few as three simple steps: 
-Request an RRSP/RRIF Multiple Beneficiary, Designation form from your plan administrator, or download one directly at
-Select one or more charities you would like to include as a beneficiary 
-Send the completed form to your plan administrator

Do you have any advice for people considering making a planned gift?
Talk with your family. It’s important that everyone understands your wishes and what matters to you. Also, involve the charities. It’s a great way of deepening your relationship with the organization, and to learn more about the impact your gift will create.