Are There Any Tax Implications for an Inheritance in Canada?

In some countries, inheritance taxes are imposed upon an amount inherited by a person from someone who has died. That person is responsible for paying tax on whatever they receive. Fortunately for us in Canada, inheritance taxes do not exist when it comes to receiving an inheritance from a loved one.

Instead, the estate of the deceased pays the taxes before any money or value is transferred to the beneficiary. This means that, in the end, the beneficiary should not have to worry about taxes.

While this may reduce the initial value of the estate, it certainly provides peace of mind to beneficiaries and loved ones who would otherwise shoulder the burden of any owing taxes, interests or penalties.

Who Inherits the Estate?

Who inherits the estates all depends on whether or not the deceased left a valid will. An estate is considered to be everything that a person owns when they die, including their property and their debts. A will is a legal document that describes who will inherit the estate after the owner of the will passes away.

With a will, the estate is distributed as per the directions of the will after taxes and expenses are paid and settled. If, however, the deceased did not have a valid will, then government-imposed rules are applied:

  • If there is a surviving spouse but no surviving descendants, then the spouse receives the estate.
  • If there are surviving descendants, and no surviving spouse, then the descendants receive the estate.
  • If there are both surviving descendants and a spouse, the spouse receives the household furnishing and the spousal preferential share (a specified amount from the estate before other distributions are made). The spouse then receives half the remainder of the estate, with the other half split between descendants.
  • If there are no descendants or spouse, the estate goes to other relatives based on a government-imposed distribution schedule.

Filing the Deceased’s Final Tax Return

After a person passes away, their tax return is filed and any owing taxes are paid by the estate. This is done by the deceased’s legal representative, which is usually an executor or estate administrator. This individual also notifies the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) and Service Canada of the date of death and forwards any necessary documents.

The final tax return and owing taxes are due on April 30th if the deceased passed away between January 1st and October 31st. Otherwise, they are due six months after the date of death.

Any owing income tax is paid by the estate first.

Clearance Certificate

After the deceased’s taxes are filed and settled, a Clearance Certificate needs to be requested from the CRA to confirm that all taxes have been paid. A Clearance Certificate confirms that the estate has paid any taxes, interest and penalties owed.

A Clearance Certificate is necessary because it allows the legal representative to distribute the inheritance to any receivers without the risk of being personally responsible for any amounts owing.

Distribution of Inheritance

After the Clearance Certificate is obtained, the executor distributes what remains of the estate in accordance to the will. The entire process from death to receiving inheritance can be a lengthy process, as wills have to be verified, items appraised and taxes filed.

Ultimately, the beneficiary will never have to worry about paying taxes on any amounts received.