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How proper planning can help protect your assets

Mary Ann Donahoe, Tax Manager with MRSB Tax Services, provides some insight into the 'why' and 'how' of planning your Will.

Your Last Will and Testament is one of the most important steps toward ensuring your family and assets are protected for the long-term. 

For many individuals, business owners and even parents, planning a Last Will and Testament is the last thing on your mind. You are busy and, in all likelihood, will have plenty of time to put your financial affairs in order for the benefit of your family. Especially for those in their 20s and 30s, a Will can seem like a slightly morbid document that only bears thinking about once middle age is in full swing. But planning the transfer of your assets and making your final wishes known should be a key component of tax and retirement planning for any individual, regardless of age or financial standing.

One of the biggest selling points (if it can be called that) when pitching the idea of a Will to the younger generation is that if you sit on the decision and the worst does happen, the courts will be the ones to decide how all of your assets are distributed. For example on Prince Edward Island, your spouse automatically receives a third of your estate while your children receive the remaining two thirds. Other Canadian provinces have similar laws. This scenario can cause significant tax issues and can also leave your spouse without planned living or retirement funds and possibly without a home. 

Conversely, having a say in how your assets will be distributed, how your spouse will be supported, who will care for your children and who will inherit your business is important for your present peace of mind as well as the future of your loved ones. A properly structured Will allows for maximum tax planning opportunities available to the executor and can result in significant tax savings. Speaking with a tax advisor is a smart move, as they can take you through all the necessary steps and you can reap the tax benefits of being an early planner.

Assuming you want to get started with your Will planning, or that you would like to give what you've already drafted up a second look, here are some key considerations to keep in mind:

  • Name an executor and a secondary executor. This is critical as you want to designate the right person to follow through on your wishes. Whether family, friend or trusted advisor, your executor should have the knowledge and compassion to be able to deal with any sensitive matters that arise
  • Take advantage of the opportunity to transfer property to a spouse, allowing for a deferral of tax on your property until the passing of both spouses
  • Consider the use of a spousal trust to effectively transfer individually owned property
  • Ensure that your executor has the ability to liquidate your assets if this is determined beneficial
  • Name a guardian for any children under the age of 18 so that they will be cared for until they reach the age of majority
  • Consider a Trustee to manage any property transfered to children until they reach an age where they can responsibly manage their own affairs (preferably 25 - 35 years of age)
  • Consider any specific bequests or donations you may wish to make to individuals, entities or charities
  • If you are a business owner it is critical that your Will work in conjunction with othe guiding legal documents such as shareholder(s) agreements, family trusts, etc.
  • Consideration should also be given to Power of Attorney and health care directives
  • Finally, your Last Will and Testament should be reviewed periodically to ensure it is up to date, reflecting any recent changes that may have happened

The cost of a Will is usually reasonable and the benefits far outweigh the potential legal costs of not having one. It will take some time and a little effort on your part, but planning your Last Will and Testament is just another step toward ensuring you are ready for whatever the future may bring. Whomever you choose to help draw up your Will, they should be knowledgeable enough to provide advice on estate matters and patient enough to answer all of your questions.

Remember, it can be too late, but it can never be too early.

 

Have a question about tax planning or preparing your Will? Contact our Tax Services team here.

Thinking about becoming a CA? Here's the 'need to know' information

By Jordan Rowledge, CA, MRSB Accounting Services

You might be finishing up a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree and pondering what your next move will be. Or maybe you’ve been working in a different field entirely for the past several years and feel like it’s time for a change. You like tasks that requires attention to detail, you work well with others and you are good with numbers...maybe a career as a Chartered Accountant is the way to go.

However, as with all other professions, you need to determine whether the career is a good fit for YOU. Like any career choice, becoming a CA isn’t necessarily as straight a path as you might think. There are hours of studying involved, exams to pass and, once you land a position, weeks of intense, coffee-fueled mayhem during tax season. Then again, you get to work with smart people who know their stuff (probably in a nice office), the pay is competitive and you will be subject to a number of different learning opportunities, situations, and valuable experiences that will facilitate your growth as a professional. 

So how do you make an intelligent, unbiased decision when questioning your future potential as a CA? While we can’t tell you what to do - we don’t know you that well yet - we are happy to offer some advice from people who have passed the exams, charged through the above-mentioned mayhem and who enjoy the perks of the profession. Here are a few well intentioned bits of advice for would-be CA students from accountants who know the ropes.

1. Take Action Now

If you are lucky enough to be considering the CA route early on in your post-secondary education, generally it is an excellent idea to apply as a summer or co-op student. Having the opportunity to work within a firm will allow you to get a direct taste of the day-to-day activities performed by a CA, and paint a clear “real-life” picture of what actually takes place in the workplace. The profession is definitely not a fit for everyone, so such an experience would be invaluable in the course of making your final decision of whether or not to pursue the CA program.

2. Finding Employment

 The Atlantic School of Chartered Accountancy (ASCA) currently requires CA students to obtain full-time employment before entering into the professional program with a public firm, or other accredited organizations. Therefore, this will require some planning ahead on your part.

Generally, interested students will apply for jobs in the fall of their fourth year as this is the most popular hiring time for accounting employers. Every year it is quite competitive as there are typically fewer positions compared to the number of students applying. Therefore, by pursuing recommendation #1 discussed above, this can allow you to get your foot in the door as employers will generally hire their summer/co-op students it they feel they are a good fit to the company.

3. Course Planning

It is also very important to take into consideration your course load in preparation for the professional program. The provincial Institute/ordre you apply to for registration will provide you with a list of the specific or additional education requirements you must meet. Most universities will offer a major or certificate in accounting through their Business or Commerce programs, so in most cases you are able to get all required prerequisite courses within your degree.

4. Developing good habits

For anyone who has been through the program, it is quite safe to say it was one of, if not the, busiest time of their lives. Balancing hours of study time and assignments on top of a full-time work schedule can be very hectic and also put a strain on your social life. Although it can seem like a very daunting task, with the right plan and work habits anything is possible! We would recommend implementing and developing your study/time management habits during your remaining time at university. As they say, practise makes perfect.

As well, it is very important to note that most employers will either supplement or pay for your education, which presents an amazing bonus and incentive. Your only job then is to make sure you pass the courses/modules on your first attempt. The program is not cheap by any means, so staying on top of your work and getting the job done right will not only benefit your wallet, but also your knowledge and understanding in the workplace.

5. Get Excited

Chartered Accountants are viewed as the staple of business professionals in today’s society. With so many opportunities in an endless number of industries, it is said to be the most transferrable and useable designation the business world has to offer. As well, if you have a strong interest in business and entrepreneurship, the education provided by this professional program is second to none in developing exceptional business skills and knowledge. It really is an excellent career choice, and well worth the time and hard work.

Important note: If you have been keeping up on the latest news surrounding the CA profession, you may have heard rumors surrounding a new “CPA” designation. Historically there have been three accounting designations in Canada, of which the Chartered Accountant (CA) is one. Currently all three of these bodies are working towards the unification of each of these three designations under the CPA designation.

With the unification on the horizon, a new CPA professional program has been developed and is set to be rolled in during 2013, replacing the current professional programs that each of the three current designations require. Right now Ontario and Quebec are the only two jurisdictions in Canada that are able to certify members as CPAs. Until legislative change is complete, each provincial and territorial CA institute will continue to grant the CA designation. Once unification efforts are complete, the jurisdiction will then issue all CAs the CPA designation as well.

Hopefully this post has been insightful and answered a few of your questions with regards to becoming a Chartered Accountant. Good luck in your decision!

The true worth of valuation when buying or selling a business

Shawn McLernan, Valuation & Corporate Finance Manager with MRSB Group, shares some of the benefits of assessing value during the buying or selling process.

Valuation may seem like an unnecessary step when you are preparing to sell your business. After all, you have your financial statements, bank accounts and tax returns – these will show potential buyers what your business is worth, right? Well, this isn’t completely true. While these items do help, they also miss many things that could raise the value of your business once you put it on the market.

When the time comes to sell your business it is important that you have a clear sense of its true value. Unfortunately, it is fairly common for sellers to look at company profit and little else when determining what their business is worth. In fact, there are many other aspects that can play a part. Do you own your own building? Do you have patents? Is your business located in a great commercial area?  What about your customer list and other intangible assets?

Once you understand how these factors affect the true value of your business you can list it at a reasonable asking price that will meet your profit needs and offer buyers a fully informed sales package. Do not be surprised if potential buyers are interested in an independent valuation in addition to the valuation report you provide. This is simply good business sense, and by providing a valuation report compiled by a professional you are showing potential buyers that you did not randomly select a dollar amount and that you have invested in making sure the value of your business is accurately reflected in the price.  Remember, knowledge is power, so the more information you provide and the more knowledge the purchaser collects, the better the sale will turn out.

From a buyer’s perspective, when you are presented with a comprehensive sales package rather than just a price, you can see all aspects of the business you are thinking about acquiring: profit, loss, value, assets, etc. This helps you make an informed decision before you offer a bid to purchase the business. Without the information provided through the seller, you must do the research on your own – not very fun if you were hoping for a relatively speedy acquisition.  No one wants to purchase a business blindly, or to rely on an incomplete or unsupported valuation presented by the seller.  What would happen if you purchased a business based on the owner’s valuation and asking price, only to find that the estimate was incorrect and that the business is worth much less than you paid? You have taken a loss on investment, and unfortunately can only blame yourself for not being an informed buyer. Help yourself out by asking the right questions early in the process to prevent confusion during the transaction.

Eliciting the help of a valuation professional can be the fastest way of ascertaining either what your own business is worth or making sure the right questions are asked before you acquire someone else’s. A valuation advisor will look at not just your business, but the entire landscape of your industry.  Before you are given any kind of idea about what your business is worth, they will dig in to find every possible component of value. Your profits will be researched and your company will be compared to others in the same industry.

The cost of an independent valuation is minimal when compared to what you stand to lose if you make a poor selling or purchasing decision. You may be leaving money on the table as a seller or overpaying as a buyer.   So before you jump headfirst into the marketplace, think about what your time, money and business are worth to you.

Questions? Contact our Transaction Services team here.

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