In 2017, I was introduced to Sidney Adler z"l and his three daughters Sharyn, Wendy, and Andrea. At the time, Mr. Adler was in his late 80s and he was at a point in life where he wanted to ensure his hard-earned capital was well-stewarded for his daughters and grandchildren.
My first meeting was with the family, Mr. Adler, his three daughters and their respective husbands. The meeting was for me to get to know them, and to gain a good understanding of Mr. Adler’s needs, desires, and his views on how he wanted things to be managed. Mr. Adler was an extremely sharp man. He had a keen interest in the markets and followed several companies very closely. It was clearly a passion of his, and he had conviction and opinions on certain stocks he followed. He loved to talk shop! His eyes would light up every time we met, or you could hear it in his voice on any call. However, at this stage of his life, and with some unfortunate underlying health conditions, he recognized his limitations and decided it was time for him to turn over the responsibility of managing his wealth and get some of his affairs in order. Mr. Adler was very loyal; he trusted the advisors he worked with. He developed long standing relationships with his lawyer, accountant, and other professionals along the way. When I got involved and started asking questions and gaining a much deeper understanding of Mr. Adler and the family, I quickly recognized there were some wonderful opportunities to open the discussion around tax planning and philanthropy. He and his daughter Sharyn were very open to listening and learning.
As only one of the professionals he worked with, I believed it was in Mr. Adler’s best interest to include his lawyer and his accountant in the conversation. They both knew him far better than I did, and he trusted their advice and guidance. I organized calls with his accountant, and I met with Mr. Adler’s lawyer. As his health became more fragile, I started to move a little quicker. It was very apparent that his estate was going to have a large tax burden due to the size of his Registered Retirement Income Fund (“RRIF”), which then lead to the bigger discussion surrounding his plans for charitable giving. I was very fortunate to be able to engage Mr. Adler’s family and to have open conversations about his affairs and philanthropy.
Having worked with Janice Benatar at the Jewish Foundation of Greater Toronto in the past, I knew she was the right person to bring into the discussion regarding the Adler family’s charitable legacy through Mr. Adler’s RRIF. When Janice and I met with them, our discussion seemed to strike a chord with Mr. Adler, as we suggested an option that would allow him to honour his late wife Doreen, while meaningfully supporting the next generation of Toronto’s Jewish community. With everyone on board, next steps were taken to ensure Mr. Adler’s wishes were fulfilled. The Jewish Foundation was named the beneficiary of Mr. Adler’s RRIF, establishing the Sidney and Doreen Adler Charitable Fund. This solution provided a way for the family to stay connected and support causes that are important to them and Mr. Adler. The idea of giving with purpose, and respecting everyone’s thoughts and considerations, really resonated with all those involved. For a family as haimish as the Adlers, with such strong connections between all three generations, community had always been very important and their discussion surrounding family philanthropy was an open one.
While the fund was created when Mr. Adler was still alive, it now allows the Adler family to continue his philanthropic legacy in perpetuity, with his three daughters acting as fund advisors. By using a RRIF for charitable causes, Mr. Adler and his family were able to build on their already strong commitment to the Jewish community and ensure that they can continue supporting it for generations to come.
The Financial Considerations:
Since Mr. Adler was a widower at the time of our meeting, the dollars that were in his RRIF upon his passing would be a deemed disposition, and the funds would be a taxable event. The deemed disposition would have been classified as taxable income and taxed at his personal income tax rate, resulting in a significant tax liability to his estate after his death.
For example, if Mr. Adler had $250,000 in his RRIF, the full $250,000 would have been deemed disposed of on his death and taxed at a marginal tax rate of over 50%. This means that at least $125,000 of that amount would have gone to the Canada Revenue Agency (the “CRA”), in addition to further taxes owing with respect to other income he may have had. By using a RRIF for charitable giving, the full $250,000 would go to charity, consequently bypassing the tax liability on the RRIF. The tax benefits of using a RRIF for philanthropy only works in the case of death and should be put in place in advance.
When it comes to estate planning, the best-case scenario is to have open, honest conversations with your client and their whole professional advisory team, including their lawyers and accountants. It is also important to have a good understanding of the family dynamics. If all the parties involved are not communicating, you can experience territorial issues that can prevent one or all of the parties from coming to the same conclusions. As an advisor, it is your responsibility to understand the needs of your clients, what will resonate with them, and most importantly, be their partner in their estate planning process.
The ability to use a RRIF as described above is always specific to a family or individual. Make sure that you speak with your clients about revisiting their estate plans on a regular basis. It is very easy to change your beneficiary on a RRIF and you can even have multiple beneficiaries. You can designate a charity as a full or partial beneficiary of your RRIF or Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP).
Keep in mind that generally, the largest tax hit on an estate is for the remaining balance of an RRSP or RRIF upon the death of a second spouse, because the CRA treats this as income in the year of death. This money may be taxed at more than 50%, including probate fees if the RRSP or RRIF account is not designated to individuals. A donation could cancel out this tax and provide an easy solution to facilitate family philanthropy and create a charitable legacy, as was the case with the Adler family.
I want to thank the Adler family for allowing the Jewish Foundation to share their story. I greatly miss Mr. Adler and I wish I had an opportunity to have spent more time with him. His passion for the market was fascinating, and the care and love he had for his family and the community was admirable.
About the Author
Since joining Evans Investment Counsel in 2011, Daniel has been committed to understanding the unique circumstances of each client, and prides himself on his hands-on approach to working with clients. Along with the Evans Investment Counsel team, he presents clients a very focused, methodical, and professional approach to private wealth management.
Daniel holds the Chartered Investment Manager (CIM®) designation and is an QAFP™ certificate. He is also an active member of the Estate Planning Council of Toronto. Daniel is very involved in giving back to the community. Daniel is a member of the Board of Governors of the North York General Hospital foundation, and is also a member of the Investment Committee for the Hospital Foundation. He is a member of the Professional Advisory Committee for the Jewish Foundation and assists various other not-for-profit organizations.