Closing out your digital life
Closing out your digital life
BY ANDREW STEWART
Death and taxes are a common famous quotation in society: Our new constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes said by Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Le Roy in 1789.
My profession predominately revolves around individuals thinking, preparing and planning for their eventual death. But dying today is not the same as it was before the invention of this social media world. It is normal to have our personal and professional lives displayed to the world over the internet. All the videos, articles, pictures, and whatever else type of content we share lives on if we don’t think, plan and prepare for them as well.
And even if you’re not on social media, you’re going to have some digital life. For most of us, whether it’s a bank, online passwords, or whatever it is, it’s practically impossible not to have some digital footprint in this world. A will is our way to say what we want to happen with our assets. You have to dive deep into what you currently have, what’s your financial future goals, the people, businesses, or institutions that mean the most to you, etc. When I asked myself the same question about my digital life, it was much harder than anticipated to come up with a concrete answer. Questions started entering my thoughts.
Do I want my digital persona to continue?
Do I want loved ones to see and receive constant reminders of me?
Who do I want and trust going through emails and accounts?
What if someone uses all that content and information for nefarious reasons?
So, I started to research what are my rights, what are some of my options and how can I make it easier for those left behind to manage social media profiles, passwords, and sensitive data after I pass away.
I realized that before you start making a list of all digital assets and how to access each one, you should create an online password manager emergency kit. This is one place someone can access that houses the keys to all your digital accounts. Print it out or download a copy to a USB drive and place it somewhere safe, like a lockbox, where your loved ones can access it in the event of your death.
What digital assets do you own? Make a list of your digital assets including everything from personal computers and other electronic devices, social media accounts, online banking accounts, email accounts, home utilities that you manage online, online shopping accounts, subscription accounts, loyalty cards, blogs and websites, and photo and digital storage. Then decide what you want to be done with these assets. Social media platforms like Facebook let you select a legacy contact who will memorialize your account and keep a pared-down version of your profile active after your death.
Who do you trust to carry out your wishes for your digital assets? Try naming a Digital Executor. Your Digital Executor is someone you designate to help settle your digital estate. Their job depends on what you want to be done with your digital property after your death.
These tasks could include:
Archiving personal files, photos, videos, and other content you’ve created
Deleting files from your computer or other devices, or erasing devices’ hard drives
Maintaining certain online accounts, which may include paying for services to continue (such as web hosting services)
Closing certain online accounts, such as social media accounts, subscription services, or any accounts that are paid for (such as Amazon Prime)
Transferring any transferrable accounts to your heirs
Collecting and transferring any money or usable credits to your heirs
Transferring any income-generating items (websites, blogs, affiliate accounts, etc.) to your heirs
Informing any online communities or online friends of your death
The good news is that there is loads of information and tools to help you plan your digital death. I’ve had really good conversations with loved ones about how they would feel. I recommend and encourage every family and person to have the conversation at least.
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You swaved in your TFSA…What happens if you die?
BY ANDREW STEWART
A husband and wife each have a TFSA. He has maxed out his contributions to his TFSA, she has not. Each is named successor holder on the other’s TFSA. Husband passes away.
Wait a minute what is a successor holder?
We’re always advised to make sure whenever possible to have beneficiaries designated on accounts. When it comes to the almighty TFSA we have another option. Similar to naming a beneficiary on life insurance policies you can name almost anyone as a beneficiary on your TFSA such as your spouse/partner or a dependent child or grandchild. You can name multiple beneficiaries and allot percentages of your assets to each.
There are lots of benefits to having a beneficiary designated on your account. It helps expedite things after you pass. It helps your loved ones to access cash and investments faster. It helps avoid probate fees. And it helps keep assets from entering the estate and getting held up in the estate process.
You can name a beneficiary for any TFSA, but you can also name a successor holder. If a TFSA holder names their spouse or common-law partner as the successor holder, then on the death of the TFSA holder, the spouse essentially becomes the new owner and the tax-exempt status of the TFSA is maintained. All of this is done without affecting the TFSA contribution room of the spouse. It is clean, simple, and seamless.
The Income Tax Act only allows the tax-exempt status of the TFSA to be passed on to a spouse or common-law partner who is a successor holder; this is different from a beneficiary. The successor holder can maintain two separate TFSA accounts afterward, or, better yet, consolidate the deceased spouse or common-law partner’s TFSA with their own.
The TFSA is a powerful account, it can be used to help fund retirement, or it can be used to help optimize government benefits. Not everyone can be named a successor holder. Only spouses and common-law partners can be named a successor holder. Brothers, sisters, parents, children, friends, etc. can be named a beneficiary on a TFSA but not a successor holder.
Which strategy is best when you want your spouse to inherit your TFSA assets? Consider designating your spouse as a successor holder along with a backup beneficiary or beneficiaries such as your children or siblings. That way not only are you providing for a seamless transition of your TFSA assets at death for your spouse, but in the unfortunate event that you both happen to die at the same time, your non-spouse beneficiary or beneficiaries will receive the funds outside of your estate, saving probate fees and time.
If you’re like most people, it may have been years since you initially set up the designated beneficiary or successor holder when you set up your TFSA originally. Or not at all especially if you opened your account back when they were introduced in 2009. Your circumstances may have changed during that time. There’s no harm in double-checking with your adviser or financial institution and making any needed changes. And for those of you just getting started, now you know the difference between the two appointments. If you’ve never invested in a TFSA before, you could have up to $75,500 of TFSA contribution room from 2009-2021.
If you are single and have no spouse/common-law partner or children, you can name your parents as beneficiaries. As a reminder if you name a spousal successor and other individuals as beneficiaries, the beneficiary designation will only take effect if the successor holder has passed away.
Happy Investing & Estate Planning!
Unlike baseball this hit and run isn’t cool
BY ANDREW STEWART
Imagine you’re driving, following all the rules of the road, and then suddenly a truck takes a corner too wide. You don’t have enough time to stop and swerving out of the way is not an option. The truck tries to avoid you but swipes the side of your car, tearing off the mirror, scratching the front and back doors, and tearing off the back bumper. You stop the car, your heart is pounding, and express almost every swear word known to a human being. You nervously look around and get out of the car expecting the truck to have stopped but to only notice it speeding away.
While car accidents are common, many Ontarians do not know the rules and regulations that dictate how a driver should proceed after being involved in a crash.
One of the most scariest and frustrating types of accidents is a hit-and-run. What is a hit-and-run accident? Simply put – a hit and run accident is when one vehicle, strikes another vehicle or a person, and then he/she does not remain at the scene of the accident.
There are many reasons why a driver who has been involved in an accident may not stop at the scene of the crash. The driver may have been impaired at the time of the accident and might want to avoid the police until he has had time to minimize the chance of testing positive on any chemical test. The driver may have been texting and driving or was engaged in some other activity that led to the crash. In addition, the driver may not have had a license or the right insurance. For a commercial truck driver, his or her livelihood rests on having a clean driving record, and the motivation to flee the accident site may be even greater.
What should you do after being involved in a hit and run accident?
Here’s what you should do if you’re involved in a one-sided accident and the other driver doesn’t stick around. The very first thing you should do is try your hardest to record any information about the vehicle that you can see. Try to write down the make, model, and company of the vehicle, the colour, and any description you can get of the driver. The most important piece of information you can get is the license plate number (even just half of it helps), if possible.
Do not leave the scene to try confronting the driver, either. Pull over so that you’re not obstructing traffic. Do your very best to talk to anyone and everyone who may have witnessed the accident. The more people who saw the accident will mean the more information and more details you will be able to provide to the police, insurance company, and personal injury lawyer. Be sure to collect all of the witnesses’ contact information, like phone number and address because later their testimony will become very useful.
Since only one driver is named in the claim, reporting car damages will have to be taken care of under your insurance policy. Your insurance company will require that you submit the police report before they start handling your claim as a hit-and-run car accident. Insurance companies are very cautious when it comes to hit and run cases due to the number of fraudulent reports they receive in a year. Hit-and-run incidents are the only type of car accident in which you’re not at fault but must pay your collision deductible. This is because there’s no other insurance provider to pay the damages under their driver’s liability.
If you don’t have collision coverage in Ontario, you won’t have insurance benefits to help with the damages to the vehicle itself. By thinking quickly and following the steps above, you can cover all of your bases without worry. Gathering information and making a report to the police are the best things you can do to protect yourself.
BY ANDREW STEWART
Hello and thank you for reading this article, whether you read my articles regularly or it’s your first time. I want to prelude so you have the proper context for this article. At the time of this writing, I like so many people across the world waited with sweaty palms, a pounding heart, shaky legs, and legit nervousness watching and waiting for a verdict. A verdict that in my opinion, would either propel humanity forward into the inclusiveness we want or backward into chaos. On March 20th, 2021, Derek Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd. I don’t need to recap what happens because we either saw the video, read, or heard how Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes during an arrest on May 25th, 2020.
The verdict was covered across almost all communication spectrums. From sports, news, entertainment, music, law and business channels, etc. It didn’t matter what profession, race, gender, religious belief, or economic station you are a part of, this was about the justice system doing the right thing and an individual being held accountable for his actions.
I’ve asked this question to myself and I’ll ask you. Did this verdict give you any sense of closure or relief? The mere fact that with all the evidence and testifying from his peers and experts, I still had doubt justice would be served. We are at war and fighting for social justice. Everyone deserves equal economic, political, social rights and opportunities. But the reality is that this world is not designed to work that way.
Access to insurance in our society raises significant issues about distributive justice and fairness in the public. Every person has the right to be free from discrimination in insurance in the areas of services, contracts, and employment. In 1992, the Supreme Court of Canada in Bates v. Zurich Insurance encouraged the industry to begin looking more closely at non-discriminatory alternatives in rate setting in the auto industry. It ruled that the insurance industry could continue to use discriminatory criteria such as age and marital status, but that the industry could not do so indefinitely.
Several insurance practices routinely distinguish between people based on, among other things, gender, age, marital status, and disability. For example, an underwriter’s assessment of whether a pre-existing condition substantially increases risk is often based on generalized assumptions about how a group behaves and the risk to the insured may be inaccurate in that it relies on stereotypes rather than the actual circumstances of the case.
When the insurance industry identified workplace stress as a major risk insurers began to limit long-term disability benefits, often to only twenty-four months unless the employee was hospitalized for people with disabilities caused by nervous and mental conditions. That means people with mental disabilities are being treated differently than people with physical disabilities. It’s very common for employees who are suffering from a mental illness to be denied benefits after twenty-four months but if they had been hospitalized would have been entitled to benefits.
Insurance companies use actuarial data analysis to set premiums and disallowing coverage to individuals considered to be too high risk. The irony is that those same individuals are the ones who need insurance coverage the most. Insurance companies tend to use general medical information concerning a particular condition without considering an individual’s specific circumstances. They overlook both individual behaviour, social programs, financial and family support to persons with disabilities.
This practice of making broad generalizations when assessing an individual’s degree of risk does not achieve the level of social justice and charging of premiums that coincide with the risk. The industry has the technology and the willingness from the public to infuse new approaches for actuarial and cost analyses. Re-evaluate rates, discriminatory classifications.