Leaving money to a secret beneficiary is very, very tricky, experts warn

Leaving money to a secret beneficiary is very, very tricky, experts warn

By David Hodges


TORONTO _ When it comes to requests to have inheritance money left discreetly, Toronto estate lawyer Ed Olkovich says it’s typically not the racy stuff most people might expect, such as funds for a secret lover or a child out of wedlock.

Rather, he says, it’s often done to avoid having something that could appear unseemly included in a will _ which becomes a public document once it’s probated.

“I’ve had a strange case where somebody said to me, ‘Don’t put that person’s name in the will because my partner will go crazy if I left this person money,”’ Olkovich says, citing the example of a client wanting to leave a sizable gift to a loyal employee without raising any suspicions from his wife.

“The next thing you know, somebody is accusing them of having an affair.”

But regardless of why you may want to leave money for a secret beneficiary, there are lawful ways to do it, says Ottawa-based estate lawyer Norman Bowley.

One option is to make arrangements with a trust company legal entities often used when dealing with estate planning matters that administer the money either during your lifetime or after your death.

“They’re discreet and professional and you would literally put in the trust, ‘When I die you are to give this $100,000 to such-and-such-a-person,”’ says Bowley. “That is not going to get out in the public, provided that you take the care to use an instrument for which you don’t need probate.”

Another option for leaving money confidentially is a secret trust in which you leave assets to a person named in your will with prearranged instructions that they privately give the funds to someone else who has not been named in the will.

For instance, Bowley says, you could leave money to a sibling, with the understanding that they would give the funds to your secret beneficiary “a mistress, for instance.” That means the gift is secret even after the will becomes public.

However, enforceability of a secret trust may be a concern because there is little you could do to ensure your wishes are actually carried out. Bowley says that “if your brother turns out to be a scalawag after your death, he may just keep the money for himself.”

An altogether different option is a permanent insurance policy that guarantees a payment, says Lorne Marr of LSM Insurance in Markham, Ont.

“The owner of the policy can choose whoever they want as the beneficiary, so long as they’re is an insurable interest” says Marr.

“But the nice thing about an insurance policy also is that it supersedes the will,” he adds, meaning that whatever you designate in your insurance policy is not part of your estate and therefore subject to probate.

But in terms of the actual pay out, the insurance company needs two things from the beneficiary: a claimant’s form explaining their relationship to the insurer, as well as a copy of the death certificate the latter of which could be tricky, Marr says.

Olkovich points out, however, that while an insurance company won’t tell you who a designated beneficiary is, that doesn’t mean the policy becomes confidential.

“If it’s for a large sum of money a court can order that information to be disclosed,” he says.

Generally, Olkovich says, the difficulty with trying to leave money in secret is that after you’re gone it’s no longer a secret once the beneficiary actually starts receiving the funds.

“If all of a sudden a large sum of money is missing out of your account, someone is going to follow that paper trail and they’re going to say, ‘Well, whatever happened to this money?”’


$45M insurance claims from March windstorm in eastern Newfoundland

Excerpted article was By Marilyn Boone, CBC News

Insurance companies have tallied the cost of a March blizzard that whipped through eastern Newfoundland and says damage claims covered by insurance add up to $45 million.

Hurricane-force winds on March 11 gusted more than 140 km/hr damaging residential and commercial buildings, vehicles and power lines.

Siding and roofs were stripped from houses, traffic lights were torn from their posts and windows were blown out of vehicles.

More than 70,000 people were without power, some for more than a day.

Winds were so strong in St. John’s that windows were blown out of vehicles in the Stavanger Drive area.

What happened is known in the insurance world as a catastrophic event, according to Amanda Dean, Atlantic vice president of the Insurance Bureau of Canada

“In the insurance industry, anything over 25 million is considered a catastrophic event,” Dean said.

The March 11 storm, on a Saturday, had residential and commercial clients calling their insurance companies the next day.

The storm came just months after remnants of Hurricane Matthew — in October 2016 — which resulted in $100 million worth of insurance claims by customers in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.

In 2010, Hurricane Igor resulted in $75 million in insurance claims. Those figures from the insurance industry do not include damage to public infrastructure such as roads and bridges.

“One event doesn’t necessarily affect insurance rates,” Dean said, but noted that catastrophic events are happening more frequently.

Premiums charged are meant to fill up the pool of money that’s available to pay out claims and “once the pools are depleted, they have to be filled back up.”

Bay Roberts wharf

The wind ripped off the roof of this building on the Bay Roberts wharf, just one of the structures damaged in the March 11 storm. (Phil Smith/Twitter)

Fort McMurray is missing an opportunity to make itself more fire-resilient as it rebuilds, an insurance expert says.

Read more

For injured paws and claws, insurance may come in handy for some pets

By Aleksandra Sagan


TORONTO _ Monica Finlay’s childhood yellow Labrador, Amy, had a few surprise accidents that cost her parents a lot of money.

“She blew out her ACL and that was really expensive,” Finlay says.

“Then, right at the end of her life, she blew out her other ACL.”

That experience is partly why she and her husband have been spending $45 a month for pet insurance since they got their German shepherd mix, Ozzie, about six years ago.

Pet insurance plans cover some veterinary costs, but pet owners are divided on whether they’re worth it.

Medical costs over an animal’s lifetime can be steep.

Cats cost their owners at least $100 a year, while dogs cost at least $200, according to the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Those numbers only cover routine visits and don’t take into account emergencies, which can add up to thousands of dollars.

Monthly fees vary depending on factors such as the animal’s breed, age and location, as well as what the plan covers. Owners can choose from accident, illness and wellness coverage, which covers the routine visits most plans don’t.

Plans often have a combination of a maximum payout amount each year, a deductible (an amount the owner must pay before the insurer pitches in) and a co-pay (a percentage of the bill the owner is responsible for). Many plans won’t cover future costs for pre-existing conditions.

Fees vary. But the average yearly cost of insuring an adult cat for accident and illness coverage with Pets Plus Us, for instance, is $370, while for a dog the cost nearly doubles to $734.

It’s estimated only about one to three per cent of all domestic cats and dogs in the country have some type of insurance, like Finlay’s dog Ozzie.

Finlay says insurance has covered Ozzie’s roughly $2,500 of annual medical costs since they discovered he has allergies to about 22 things, including beef, chicken and wool.

“It would have been really cost prohibitive to keep him if we didn’t have pet insurance,” she says, adding the insurer pays 90 per cent of those costs save for a one-time $500 deductible.

But not all pets need such expensive, ongoing care and the monthly fees could add up to more than what the insurer needs to pay.

Michelle Van Dyk-Houghton chose not to insure her dog Brooke or her cat Ginger after weighing the monthly cost of insurance versus the potential savings.

Instead, she and her husband set aside $100 to $200 a month for animal care and draw on those funds when needed.

“If we don’t need it, then it’s money that we still have,” she says. “I don’t feel like I’m just giving it to an insurance company to kind of be gone forever.”

Not all pet owners are able to take out insurance though.

When Marli Vlok’s first guinea pig fell ill with what she believes was fibrous osteodystrophy, a metabolic bone disease, she paid more than $900 for Ember’s teeth to be trimmed three times and about $700 for a visit to a specialist.

She looked into pet insurance for her other guinea pigs, but couldn’t find a plan that would cover them.

Vlok routinely shells out between $40 and $70 for vet visits and has paid about $300 for two sets of X-rays for Onyx.

She says she keeps about $500 on hand for vet purposes at all times, but would prefer to pay for insurance.

“They’re one of those pets that you have a very good chance that they’ll be absolutely healthy,” she says.

“But when things go wrong, it’s expensive wrong.”

Probes launched into Manitoba privacy breach after names of MRI patients leaked

WINNIPEG _ Two probes are underway after the names of some high profile Manitobans who were allegedly fast-tracked for MRI scans became public.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority has launched an investigation into the privacy breach and Manitoba’s ombudsman is also conducting a review.

The investigations come after the Winnipeg Free Press published a story based on a leaked document which was part of the Auditor General’s report into the management of MRI services.

The report contained the names of Manitobans who potentially received preferential MRI scans and noted patients with influence and those covered by private insurance may have been given higher priority to scans.

Auditor General Norm Ricard’s report found some people such as injured workers, professional athletes and government officials are given faster service.

He didn’t name those involved due to confidentiality and says he was mortified when he found out the document had been leaked.

Theresa Oswald, former health minister and current executive director of the Women’s Health Clinic, told CTV Winnipeg she found out her name was in the leaked document after receiving a call from a reporter.

“It was extremely jarring,” she said. “One’s personal health information is really the most intimate and private information that anyone can have.

“Today, it may be records of a diagnostic test for me, but as I lead the Women’s Health Clinic I can’t help but wonder, tomorrow might it be somebody’s decision to release information about our clients’ sexual and reproductive health?”

Oswald said at no time has she ever asked for preferential treatment for any kind of health care.

Ricard said the leak didn’t come from the Office of the Auditor General.

“We know who had access to that information, and it’s limited to two people who I trust implicitly,” Ricard told CTV.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said the source of the breach is not yet known.

Ombudsman Charlene Paquin said she was extremely concerned that the privacy of some people had been violated.

“We cannot presume that anyone accessing health care won’t mind, or won’t be negatively affected by, having their personal health information revealed without their consent or in another unauthorized way,” she said in a release.

Dental hygienists worried PST on insurance premiums will reduce access

Dental hygienists raised concerns that adding the PST to health insurance premiums will reduce access to dental care in Saskatchewan at a meeting with MLAs in Regina on Monday.

The Saskatchewan Dental Hygienists Association organized the meeting to enlighten MLAs on the rate of oral disease in the province.

Association executive director Kellie Watson said the group was raising concerns about the provincial budget decision to apply the six per cent PST to health insurance premiums.

Insurance premiums will have the PST applied starting July 1 — adding $157.9 million to the treasury this year.

“Employers will now have to pay six per cent on their current health benefits, which will significantly impact the amount of people that get employer health and dental benefits,” said Watson.

She said the hygienists group would also be asking MLAs to update the Dental Disciplines Act to help dental hygienists provide better care for more vulnerable people.

More people could be accessing care: SDHA

Watson added that there were ways that dental hygienists could reduce costs to make health care more effective in the future.

“We believe that there’s a good amount of people in our province that are not accessing care that they should be,” she said.

“And we want to reconnect the body with the head and neck and the mouth, and make sure that people know that oral health and systemic health is definitely connected.”

Estevan MLA Lori Carr was among the MLAs who met with the hygienists on Monday. (CBC News)

No significant impact, says MLA

Estevan MLA Lori Carr was one of the MLAs who met with the hygienists on Monday.

She disagreed the PST change would have a significant impact on access to insurance.

“Some tough budget decisions were made and this was an area we decided to go in,” she said.

“As a government we don’t feel it’s going to have a huge impact on it.”

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