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David Allard

Joint accounts: what you need to know!

Establishing a joint account may seem like a great strategy at first glance. However, there are many factors that must be considered before taking this action. This article will explore the use of ‘joint accounts’ and the related estate planning, control and tax issues and consequences related to these types of accounts.

 

What are Joint Accounts?

There are two types of joint accounts:

  • Joint Accounts with Tenancy in Common

With tenancy in common arrangements, each joint owner may or may not own equal parts of the assets. When one joint owner passes away, their share is left to their beneficiaries as designated in their will or the rules pertaining to intestacy.

 

  • Joint Accounts with Right of Survivorship (JTWROS)

The most common type of joint ownership is joint tenants with rights of survivorship where each individual has equal ownership and control of the assets. The joint owners do not have to be related, however, often they are spouses or parents/adult children. Upon the death of one joint owner, the surviving joint owners automatically receive ownership of the deceased’s portion of the assets. It should be noted that this type of ownership is not available in Quebec.

 

Why Open a Joint Account WROS?

There are several reasons people consider joint accounts. One being the administration of the estate becomes a lot easier because the “right of survivor” clause allows for the assets in the account to pass directly to the surviving joint owner. This results in the assets essentially bypassing the deceased’s estate. For this reason, many people open joint accounts to minimize or avoid having to pay probate fees (probate varies from province to province). Before placing accounts in joint ownership careful consideration must be taken. When joint accounts are set up, any joint owner is able to withdraw funds from the joint account at any time and does not need the permission of the other joint owner to do so.

As well, assets held in a joint account may form part of creditor proceedings if one of the joint account holders becomes insolvent or declares bankruptcy. These issues raise many questions that should be addressed before setting up this type of account. For example, in many cases spouses may be comfortable with this arrangement now, but if they were to experience marital problems a few years down the road, would each spouse still be comfortable with the arrangement? What if son or daughter was to experience marital problems of his or her own?

Another major area of concern revolves around parents naming their children as joint owners believing this is efficient from an estate planning perspective. The parents need to understand that they will give up full control of the account to their children? What if the children were to experience marital problems of their own?

 

Tax Implications – Deemed disposition and income tax consequences

The tax implications of setting up joint accounts are different if they are set up with adult children or spouses. This is discussed in more detail below.

According to CCRA, under the tax rules, a ‘disposition’ occurs when there has been a change in ‘beneficial’ ownership as opposed to a change in ‘legal’ ownership. While legal ownership implies ownership or title over certain assets, beneficial ownership differs in that it suggests that certain owners will derive some type of benefit (e.g. income) from the assets.

Where legal owners have beneficial ownership, each joint account holder is equally responsible for the tax liability and each owner will report earnings based on their portion of ownership (attribution rules may apply between spouses, as discussed below).

 

Setting up a Joint Account with a Spouse or Common-law Partner

If a joint account is set up with a spouse, the tax consequences of a deemed disposition are avoided because federal tax laws permit property to be transferred between spouses at the adjusted cost base (instead of FMV). In this situation, tax on the appreciated value of the asset can be deferred until the asset is actually sold. At that time, the gains would be attributed back to the spouse who contributed the assets to the account. Also, assets would pass directly to the surviving spouse, not pass through the estate and not be subject to probate.

Reporting income on joint accounts between spouses seems to cause many misconceptions.

Although an asset may be a joint account for legal purposes, CRA looks to beneficial ownership (not legal ownership) when determining who should pay tax on any income generated in the account. So, although a married couple may have a ‘joint account’, income or growth is to be reported for tax purposes according to the proportion of funds that each spouse contributed to that account.

 

Setting up Joint Account with an Adult child (over 18)

A transfer of property to someone other than your spouse or common-law partner may trigger immediate capital gains tax. For example, if three adult children became joint owners with a parent, ¾ of the asset would be deemed sold by the parent. If the asset had appreciated in value the parent would owe taxes in the current year. The future capital gains and losses on the asset and any future income on the assets would be reported proportionately for tax purposes by the parent and the three children. Note that in the case of bank accounts, GICs, T-Bills or similar fixed income investments there would be no tax consequences as a result of a ‘deemed disposition.’ Taxes are paid on these assets each year.

 

The Controversy…CRA vs. provincial legislation

Controversy revolves around whether or not the strategy actually avoids probate fees on assets that have been placed in joint tenancy with someone other than a spouse, when no disposition for tax purposes was claimed at the time of the change. CRA states that if there was no transfer of beneficial ownership and no disposition for tax purposes when the child’s name was added, then on the parent’s death the entire asset was owned by the parent and therefore should be included in probate. In fact, the child is acting as a trustee and not as a joint tenant.

However, the legal community will argue that since the administration of probate is provincially mandated, it has nothing to do with income taxes or CRA. In fact, legislation states that the value of an estate for the calculation of fees ‘does not include…property held in joint tenancy’ since they pass outside of the estate. But this brings back the issue of CRA claiming that a true joint tenancy arrangement does not exist if you merely add a child’s name to the title of the asset, so reducing probate fees is not achieved

 

Conclusion

While avoiding probate may seem like a great objective, individuals must be aware of the deemed disposition and attribution rules and must completely understand the control implications of establishing joint accounts. For this reason, transferring assets into joint ownership should never be done without professional tax and legal advice.

 

This publication has been prepared by ScotiaMcLeod, a division of Scotia Capital Inc.(SCI), a member of CIPF. This publication is intended as a general source of information and should not be considered as personal investment, tax or pension advice. We are not tax advisors and we recommend that individuals consult with their professional tax advisor before taking any action based upon the information found in this publication. This publication and all the information, opinions and conclusions contained in it are protected by copyright. This report may not be reproduced in whole or in part, or referred to in any manner whatsoever, nor may the information, opinions, and conclusions contained in it be referred to without in each case.



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The emperor's new clothes

The wealth market faces increasing competition and declining product differentiation. The wealth industry is responding to these emerging trends with “new” and “unique” investment vehicles promising enhanced features, lower risk and low correlation to traditional stocks and bonds. The quest for something “new” and “unique” is driving investment strategies, service delivery models and new asset classes.

The one thing these opportunities have in common are layers upon layers of complexity - challenging investors to exercise additional due diligence. While some of these “new” opportunities are revolutionary, others are simply old ideas repackaged into a different layer of clothes. Linked notes, private placements, income trusts and structured products are all examples of investment opportunities promising something new and exciting while delivering higher returns. Exercising due diligence and asking the right questions is the only way of evaluating “the emperor’s new clothes”.

It is important to acknowledge that new opportunities, platforms and investment vehicles are constantly appearing. Some even change the investment landscape. The impact of the Internet as a delivery vehicle for investment platforms, and the impact retail hedge funds on asset allocation, are just two examples of how our environment has changed. At the same time, new ideas, new vehicles and new platforms also expose us to the unfamiliar. It is easy to feel overwhelmed listening to the “experts”. In those situations we face a critical fork in the road. We can either ask questions at the risk of feeling awkward, or we can follow the herd. Historical examples of herd mentality plague the investment industry. Remember the gold-rush? Or the more recent tech boom and subsequent bust? Or perhaps a U.S. example such as Long-Term Capital Management’s collapse will illustrate the ease in which we become trapped in the euphoria of “the latest thing”. However, as opportunities become more complex, the danger of lack of due diligence grows. What might be a recognizable warning signal in context of the familiar can easily be overlooked when buried underneath a new investment platform, delivery vehicle or investment structure.

The following are some key points to consider when evaluating new ideas:

 

1) Selling the sizzle or the steak?

Ensure you understand the fundamental nature, characteristics and risk of the underlying investment. Do not become distracted by “packaging” (capital guarantees, glossy marketing material etc).

 

2) What are the basic characteristics of the investment?

It is easy to get distracted by features, especially if the product promises tax efficiency, regular income distribution or some other desirable attribute. But the risks associated with a product are tied to its basic characteristics. Does it represent an equity or debt interest in something tangible? How stable is that interest? How reliable is the underlying asset? What recourse is available to you if things go wrong?

Exercising due diligence and asking the right questions is the only way of evaluating “the emperor’s new clothes”. … What might be a recognizable warning signal in context of the familiar can easily be overlooked when buried underneath a new investment platform, delivery vehicle or investment structure.

 

3) How suitable is the strategy?

If you don’t clearly understand the strategy and process behind the investment vehicle you cannot gauge whether it is suitable for you. Warren Buffet once stated that “he would never invest in something that he did not understand”. Throughout his business activities, it would seem that Buffet remained true to this principle.

 

4) What are the primary risks?

Under what conditions will the product under-perform? Every strategy has downside risk. If you don’t clearly understand the risks you need to ask more questions.

 

5) Who are the people?

Who are the individuals that are managing your money? What is their education and experience? Is the firm that they work for a credible, reputable organization? Are the individuals stable and cohesive, invested emotionally and financially in the success of the firm? Is the firm independent, answering only to its clients, or is it part of a larger conglomerate?

Most of the financial debacles of preceding years have been due to an entity or individual getting into trouble and trying to correct and/or cover up the problem. If you have doubts about the reputation, presence, ethics and quality of the personnel, talk to their competitors.

 

6) Process

Ensure there is some credible and repeatable process for adding value to your portfolio. That is the difference between an investment and a gamble. Investment is a process leading to a well-diversified portfolio, gambling relies on luck.

Many wealth management platforms combine advice from an advisor with the due diligence resources of an independent, unbiased organization. Trustworthy organizations use “due diligence managers” to assess and monitor products before they receive the necessary blessing to be placed on their wealth management platforms. The due diligence manager should be an expert at evaluating products and investment opportunities to determine if the “emperor has any clothes”. The quality of the due diligence manager is your protection from the “emperor’s new clothes”. They should be independent and objective. Ask about the quality, reputation and qualifications of the respective due diligence manager in order to find out how they evaluate and monitor products.

Do your homework and don’t follow the herd. Your savings take a lifetime to build, but momentary lapses in due diligence can do a lot of damage. Due diligence is your protection. Most of us don’t have the time, knowledge, skill nor resources to conduct adequate due diligence on our own.

Northern Trust Global Advisors 

 

This publication has been prepared by ScotiaMcLeod, a division of Scotia Capital Inc.(SCI), a member of CIPF. This publication is intended as a general source of information and should not be considered as personal investment, tax or pension advice. We are not tax advisors and we recommend that individuals consult with their professional tax advisor before taking any action based upon the information found in this publication. This publication and all the information, opinions and conclusions contained in it are protected by copyright. This report may not be reproduced in whole or in part, or referred to in any manner whatsoever, nor may the information, opinions, and conclusions contained in it be referred to without in each case.



Geopolitical tensions rattle markets

The Big Picture

Geopolitical tensions rattle markets

The spectre of rising geopolitical tensions in Ukraine and Gaza cast a shadow over an otherwise positive week in the markets. News that a passenger jet was tragically shot down in Eastern Ukraine Thursday may prove to be a turning point in the conflict that’s already ensnared Russia, Ukraine, the US and its allies. Equally concerning is the ground offensive Israel launched into Gaza on the same day to neutralize Hamas militants after ten days of bombardment. In both instances, the fear lies in an escalation of the conflicts and the prospect of them broadening beyond the region. Until Thursday, the markets had put in a good showing thanks to encouraging US corporate earnings, good news from China and supportive words from the Fed. In her semi-annual report to Congress, Fed chief Janet Yellen reiterated her belief that “a high degree of monetary policy accommodation remains appropriate”. Turning to US corporate earnings, more than 50 companies in the S&P 500 reported through Thursday with many surpassing the expected 4.8% rise in profits. Solid earnings helped divert attention from disappointing US retail sales and an underwhelming housing report which showed new home construction falling well short of expectations. In Canada, the BoC released its regularly scheduled interest rate policy statement and there was, as expected, no change in interest rates – still 1% since 2010. But there was a change in outlook with growth expectations reduced for this year and next. Farther afield there was good news out of China which reported a slight acceleration in Q2 growth as GDP grew to 7.5% compared to 7.4% in Q1. The increase is credited to recent stimulus efforts and points to a potential bottoming in Chinese growth. Finally, the BRICS nations – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – announced the creation of a development bank to assist in infrastructure work and emergency financing similar to the IMF.

 

Markets

Stocks lose momentum

Stocks lost momentum over the four-day period and ended mixed. The Dow rose 33 pts. to finish at 16,976, the S&P 500 fell 9 pts. to close at 1,958 and the Nasdaq shed 52 pts. to settle at 4,363. The TSX gained 79 pts. to end at 15,204.

 

Our Recommendations

Banks and lifecos most hospitable space within traditional yield sectors, bonds have an eventful week

Equities

Himalaya Jain, Director, Portfolio Advisory Group wrote “As Canadian bank stock hit new highs, we are being asked more frequently whether they are overvalued. While valuation multiples have increased, we don’t consider forward P/E multiples to be excessive at this point. Sentiment on the bank sector has improved to reflect expectations of a soft landing in the Canadian housing market and consistent earnings growth. Funds flow from other traditional dividend-growth sectors may also be fueling the rise in the banks. Street sentiment on the telco sector has been souring due to fear of increased competition, pipeline/utilities trade at valuations well above historical averages, and the REIT sector remains vulnerable to higher interest rates. This leaves the banks and lifecos as the most hospitable space within the traditional yield sectors. While banks may yet have further upside, lifecos look relatively more attractive based on valuation. In addition to higher bond yields, another potential catalyst over the next 12 months for the lifecos is a resumption of dividend growth.”

Fixed Income

Andy Mystic, Director, Portfolio Advisory Group wrote “Despite being relatively lackluster early on, it did prove to be an event filled week with comments from Fed Chair Yellen, the Bank of Canada rate decision and a heightening of geo-political risks to close out the week. During her semi-annual testimony to Congress Fed Chair Yellen continued to signal an expectation for low interest rates, noting that the US economic recovery is not yet complete with still too many Americans unemployed. Sticking to her recent tone she further noted that “a high degree of monetary policy accommodation remains appropriate.” The Bank of Canada this week pushed out its economic capacity expectations suggesting that the Canadian economy would not reach fully capacity until the mid-part of 2016 - three months later than previously forecast. The Bank retained a neutral interest rate bias but with Canadian CPI having printed Friday at 2.4% y/y (vs. exp. 2.3% y/y) – inflationary concerns will likely be coming increasingly into focus. Although we traded in relatively subdued fashion through most of the week, the shooting down of a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 over eastern Ukraine saw bonds rally firmly Thursday – with the event seemingly signaling a further deterioration in Western-Russian relations. . Despite the geo-political risks, our broader views on the US and Canadian economies remain largely intact. Despite the rally seen in bonds, investors still aren’t being sufficiently compensated for extending term, in our view. With inflation and most US data gathering momentum, we continue to highlight the risks of a Fed that that could turn hawkish, supporting the need to remain defensive. In the short term though, geo-political risks could hold rates in at lower than expected levels.”

 

All performance data represents past performance and is not indicative of future performance. This publication is intended only to convey information. It is not to be construed as an investment guide or as an offer or solicitation of an offer to buy or sell any of the securities mentioned in it. The author is an employee of ScotiaMcLeod, a division of Scotia Capital Inc. (“SCI”), but the data selection, analysis and views expressed herein are solely those of the author and not those of SCI. The author has taken all usual and reasonable precautions to determine that the information contained in this publication has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable and that the procedures used to summarize and analyze such information are based on approved practices and principles in the investment industry. However, the market forces underlying investment value are subject to sudden and dramatic changes and data availability varies from one moment to the next. Consequently, neither the author nor SCI can make any warranty as to the accuracy or completeness of information, analysis or views contained in this publication or their usefulness or suitability in any particular circumstance. You should not undertake any investment or portfolio assessment or other transaction on the basis of this publication, but should first consult your investment advisor, who can assess all relevant particulars of any proposed investment or transaction. SCI and the author accept no liability of whatsoever kind for any damages or losses incurred by you as a result of reliance upon or use of this publication in contravention of this notice. ® Registered trademark of The Bank of Nova Scotia, used by ScotiaMcLeod. ScotiaMcLeod is a division of Scotia Capital Inc. ("SCI"). SCI is a member of the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada and the Canadian Investor Protection Fund.





Euro debt woes re-emerge

Big Picture

Euro debt woes re-emerge

Europe’s debt woes jumped back into the headlines this week trumping other economic, geopolitical and corporate developments. Word that one of Portugal’s biggest-listed banks had delayed coupon payments on some short-term debt securities spooked global financial markets Thursday. The fall-out was most pronounced across the euro-zone – particularly the banking sector – but ripples travelled as far as North America where fidgety traders hit the sell button. That was in stark contrast to the previous day when sentiment was running high after the US Federal Reserve released minutes from its latest policy meeting. The minutes confirmed the bank’s accommodative stance as there was no mention of an interest rate rise which emboldened traders. What was in the minutes was agreement among officials to end the central bank’s bond buying in October – something that had already been expected and largely factored into the markets. The Q2 US earnings season – not Portuguese bank debt – was expected to dominate the narrative at the start of the week with expectations for a 4.8% rise in corporate profits versus a 2.1% climb in Q1. Finally, a range of geopolitical tensions continue to percolate in the background. In the Mid-East, Israel and Palestinians in Gaza are exchanging missile fire while the Iraq situation remains fluid and unpredictable. Meantime, the Ukraine government remains engaged in a day-to-day conflict to oust pro-Russian separatists from its soil.

 

Markets

Stocks fall from peaks

North American benchmarks came off their record highs with the Dow shedding 153 pts. over the four-day period to end Thursday at 16,915, the S&P 500 slipped 21pts. to end at 1,964 and the Nasdaq gave back 89 pts. to close at 4,396. The TSX dropped 100 pts. to settle at 15,114.

 

Our Recommendations

Preferreds trending higher as expected, rising risks to long-term bonds

Preferreds - Tara Quinn, Director, Portfolio Advisory Group wrote “The preferred share market continues to trend higher as the supply vs. demand theme we expected at the beginning of the year continues to affect preferred share performance. The recent reset redemptions have helped the performance of existing resets as money is being reinvested into good quality securities. As this time we still view rate reset preferred shares as offering an attractive yield versus corporate bonds. Bank perpetuals are trading with a negative yield to call and should be avoided at this time. We would also encourage investors to consider reducing exposure to non-bank perpetuals as there are risks that 30-year bond yields could drift higher from current levels causing prices to fall.”

Fixed Income - Andy Mystic, Director, Portfolio Advisory Group wrote “With inflation beginning to rise, the US economy continuing to gain traction, and markets seemingly becoming complacent (volatility currently at pre-crisis lows) we see some rising risks to bonds. That being said, the technical buying that would likely materialize with a US 10-year Treasury yield in the 3.0-3.25% range, make it difficult to envision US rates moving materially above that level with any great authority in the near-term. With risks beginning to become more pronounced, but rate and spread levels still relatively low, there remains very little incentive to assume risk. As a result, we continue to believe that investors should remain short duration (i.e. durations typically of three to four years or lower). With credit spreads continuing to approach historical tightness (IG five year currently at 55.2bps vs. low of 29.7bps) security selection will become increasingly important. At the front end, GICs still provide the best relative value (one to five years). Within the investment grade space defensive investors should migrate towards better rated credit (e.g. BBB to A). We would suggest that investors limit or reduce exposure to high yield (HY) product which continues to grind up to historical highs. In addition to the diminishing risk/reward proposition of HY, investors remain vulnerable to extension risk as a sufficient sell off in HY could drive duration term extension. Although the HY carry trade could potentially continue for some time yet, the relative attractiveness of the HY space is clearly diminishing – particularly as markets seemingly become complacent and volatility remains subdued. Investors are simply no longer being paid sufficiently for HY risk, in our view.”

 

All performance data represents past performance and is not indicative of future performance. This publication is intended only to convey information. It is not to be construed as an investment guide or as an offer or solicitation of an offer to buy or sell any of the securities mentioned in it. The author is an employee of ScotiaMcLeod, a division of Scotia Capital Inc. (“SCI”), but the data selection, analysis and views expressed herein are solely those of the author and not those of SCI. The author has taken all usual and reasonable precautions to determine that the information contained in this publication has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable and that the procedures used to summarize and analyze such information are based on approved practices and principles in the investment industry. However, the market forces underlying investment value are subject to sudden and dramatic changes and data availability varies from one moment to the next. Consequently, neither the author nor SCI can make any warranty as to the accuracy or completeness of information, analysis or views contained in this publication or their usefulness or suitability in any particular circumstance. You should not undertake any investment or portfolio assessment or other transaction on the basis of this publication, but should first consult your investment advisor, who can assess all relevant particulars of any proposed investment or transaction. SCI and the author accept no liability of whatsoever kind for any damages or losses incurred by you as a result of reliance upon or use of this publication in contravention of this notice. ® Registered trademark of The Bank of Nova Scotia, used by ScotiaMcLeod. ScotiaMcLeod is a division of Scotia Capital Inc. ("SCI"). SCI is a member of the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada and the Canadian Investor Protection Fund.



Read more Navigating Your Wealth articles

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About the Author

Jeff Stathopulos, CIM, CFP, Portfolio Manager

After two decades in the financial services industry, Jeff's experience as an advisor and branch manager define his approach to providing customized financial planning, estate planning, and managed income solutions. Key to this approach is a thorough understanding of the unique challenges and goals that exist in every client's life. He is a partner in Navigation Wealth Management.

Jeff holds the Certified Financial Planning and Chartered Investment Manager designations. He lives in Kelowna with his wife Tanya, and their two (almost adult) enterprising children.

 

You can contact Jeff by email at [email protected]

Website:  www.yourlifeyourplan.ca







The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.



These articles are for information purposes only. It is recommended that individuals consult with a financial advisor before acting on any information contained in this article. The opinions stated are not necessarily those of Scotia Capital Inc. or The Bank of Nova Scotia. ScotiaMcLeod is a division of Scotia Capital Inc., Member CIPF.


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