What happens to the money in your RRIF after your death – and the taxes on it – will depend on:
whether or not you name a beneficiary for your RRIF, and
who you choose as your beneficiary.
The beneficiary is the person or organization you choose to inherit the money in your RRIF. It does not have to be the same beneficiary that you chose for your RRSP.
If you don't name a beneficiary
Your RRIF will be included in the calculation of probate fees on your estate. The value of your RRIF will also be included as income on your final tax return. That means the beneficiaries of your estate may get less money, after all income taxes and probate fees are paid.
If you name a beneficiary
Your RRIF won't be included in the calculation of probate fees on your estate. Your estate won't have to include the RRIF’s value on your final tax return or pay income tax if your beneficiary is:
a financially dependent child or grandchild who is under 18, or
a financially dependent child or grandchild of any age who is infirm.
Make sure you name a beneficiary for your RRIF. It's an important part of estate planning.
If the beneficiary is your spouse
The rules depend on whether you name your spouse as the successor annuitant of your RRIF.
If your spouse is the successor annuitant
Your spouse takes over your RRIF and automatically starts receiving your RRIF payments. They won't have to make any changes to your RRIF investments or incur any fees.
If your spouse is not the successor annuitant
Your RRIF will be collapsed and the investments sold. As the beneficiary, your spouse can have the money from your RRIF rolled over to their RRSP or RRIF.
There may be some disadvantages for your spouse:
It may not be a good time to sell the investments. Markets may be down.
There may be selling costs.
There may be a lot of paperwork and worry for your spouse at a difficult and stressful time.
If you make your spouse the successor annuitant of your RRIF, they will automatically receive your RRIF payments after your death.
If your beneficiary is a financially dependent child or a grandchild
Upon inheriting your RRIF, your beneficiary can:
buy a term annuity and pay tax on the payments they receive,
transfer it tax free to their RRSP, or
roll it over tax free to their RDSP if they have a mental or physical disability.
The amount rolled over from a RRIF to an RDSP can't be greater than the available contribution room or exceed the $200,000 lifetime maximum contribution limit for the RDSP.
If you name a charity as the beneficiary of your RRIF, your estate may receive a charitable donation tax credit of up to 100% of the RRIF income reported when the final tax return is filed. This may offset any tax owing on the proceeds of the RRIF.
Content in this section is provided in partnership with Investor Education Fund, a non-profit organization founded and supported by the Ontario Securities Commission that provides unbiased and independent financial tools to help Canadians make better money decisions. To find out more, go to: GetSmarterAboutMoney.ca