10 min read

Receiving an Inheritance in Canada: A Comprehensive Guide

Written by
Willfinity Team


In Canada, the term 'inheritance' refers to the process of transferring assets, property, or money from a deceased person to another individual or entity, commonly known as the beneficiary. These beneficiaries are often family members, but they can also be friends or charitable organisations. Understanding the nuances of inheritance is vital as it can significantly influence one's financial stability and growth prospects. This guide aims to demystify the process of inheritance in Canada, providing readers with insights and tips to navigate this complex yet significant life event.

The Changing Landscape of Inheritance in Canada

As the baby boomer generation (those born between 1946 and 1964) in Canada ages, we are on the brink of witnessing a significant wealth transfer. This generation, who grew up in a time of unprecedented economic growth, has amassed substantial assets and property throughout their lifetimes.

Case Study 1: The Smith Family

Take the case of the Smith family. The patriarch, John Smith, a baby boomer who worked tirelessly throughout his life, managed to accumulate a considerable amount of wealth. Owning several properties and having a robust investment portfolio, John wishes to pass down his assets smoothly to his children and grandchildren. Through meticulous estate planning, he ensures that the next generation can benefit from his life's work, fostering financial security and opportunities for wealth-building.

Case Study 2: Community Contributions

On the other hand, Sarah, a philanthropic baby boomer, chose to leave a significant portion of her assets to charitable organisations. She believed in giving back to the community and wanted to ensure that her wealth would be used for the greater good, aiding in various social causes. Sarah's decision showcases the versatility of inheritance, where assets can be directed not only to family members but also towards fostering positive societal change.

As the baby boomer generation passes away, millennials and Generation Z stand to inherit these assets, potentially leading to increased financial security and opportunities for investment and wealth-building. Regardless of one's age or generation, understanding the dynamics of inheritance is crucial to making informed decisions that can shape a prosperous future.

Understanding the Complexities of Inheritance

Inheriting assets is not just about receiving; it encompasses several legal, financial, and tax implications that need careful consideration. Being knowledgeable about these aspects can empower individuals to handle the responsibilities effectively, maximizing the opportunities that an inheritance offers.

Legal Implications:

Understanding the legalities surrounding inheritance is crucial. This includes being aware of the will, the role of executors, and the legal processes involved in transferring assets. It is advisable to consult with a lawyer to navigate these legal intricacies.

Financial Implications:

An inheritance can significantly alter one's financial landscape. It is essential to be aware of the various assets involved and how to manage them effectively to ensure financial stability and growth. Creating a comprehensive financial plan can be a wise step in this direction.

Tax Implications:

Tax implications are a significant aspect of inheritance. Depending on the type of assets inherited, there might be taxes to be paid or tax benefits to be availed. Understanding these tax implications is vital to avoid any legal issues and to make the most of the inherited assets.

Example 1: Inheriting a Property

Consider the scenario where you inherit a property. Understanding the market value, assessing maintenance costs, and deciding whether to keep, rent, or sell the property are crucial decisions. Additionally, being aware of any taxes that might apply upon selling the property is vital to avoid any legal hassles and to make an informed decision that aligns with your financial goals.

Example 2: Inheriting a Business

Inheriting a business comes with its own set of challenges. From understanding the business operations to assessing its financial health and making decisions regarding its future direction, inheriting a business can be a complex process. Seeking legal and financial advice can be a prudent step to ensure that the business continues to thrive and grow.

Different Assets Received in Inheritance

Inheritances can encompass a wide variety of assets, each with its unique characteristics and implications. In this section, we will explore these different assets, providing you with a roadmap on how to handle them proficiently.

Registered Accounts

These are specialised savings accounts that are governed by certain tax rules. Let's break down the most common types:

  1. RRSPs (Registered Retirement Savings Plans): These are retirement savings plans that allow Canadians to save for retirement while deferring taxes until the money is withdrawn. When inherited, the account's contents are considered as income for the beneficiary and taxed accordingly, unless transferred to a spouse or common-law partner.
  1. RRIFs (Registered Retirement Income Funds): Similar to RRSPs but designed to provide retirees with a regular income. The tax implications are the same as RRSPs when inherited.
  1. TFSAs (Tax-Free Savings Accounts): These accounts allow Canadians to earn tax-free investment income. Inheriting assets from a TFSA usually doesn't incur taxes, making it a favourable asset to inherit.


Investments form a significant part of many estates, including:

  1. Stocks: Shares in a company, which may pay dividends and can appreciate in value over time.
  1. Bonds: Debt securities which pay interest over a set period.
  1. Mutual Funds: Investment funds that pool money from various investors to purchase a diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds.
  1. GICs (Guaranteed Investment Certificates): Low-risk investment instruments that offer a guaranteed rate of return over a fixed period.

Understanding the market dynamics and seeking expert advice can aid in managing these investments proficiently.

Real Estate

Real estate assets can be diverse, including residential properties, vacation homes, or rental properties. When inherited, they can either be sold, retained, or rented, each option having its financial and tax implications. Proper evaluation and planning are crucial in making the most out of real estate inheritance.

Business Interests

Inheriting a part or whole of a business can be a complex affair. Understanding the business's operations, its financial health, and deciding its future trajectory are vital aspects to consider. Seeking professional advice can be beneficial in navigating the complexities of inheriting business interests.

Personal Property and Collectibles

These can range from vehicles to art collections and jewelry. The sentimental value attached to these assets can sometimes surpass their market value. Managing these assets sensitively and wisely is crucial.

Case Study 3: Navigating Real Estate Inheritance

Tom inherited a vintage cottage in a picturesque location from his grandparents. Instead of selling it, he decided to transform it into a vacation rental, turning a sentimental asset into a lucrative business, thus preserving the memory of his grandparents while generating steady income.

Case Study 4: Managing Diversified Investments

Sara inherited a diversified portfolio of stocks, bonds, and mutual funds from her uncle. She took the time to educate herself about the market dynamics and sought professional advice to restructure the portfolio to align with her financial goals, ensuring steady growth and financial security.

Strategies for Managing Your Inheritance Wisely

Receiving an inheritance can sometimes be a bittersweet experience, bringing financial benefits but also responsibilities. Here's how you can approach this situation with wisdom and foresight:

  1. Review Your Financial Situation: Start by taking a comprehensive look at your current financial status. It helps in making informed decisions on how to allocate the inherited assets effectively.
  1. Seek Professional Advice: Consulting with financial advisors, estate planners, and tax professionals can provide you with a broader perspective and expert guidance in managing your inheritance.
  1. Pay off Debts and Build an Emergency Fund: Utilise a part of your inheritance to settle existing debts and build an emergency fund to secure your financial future.
  1. Consider Charitable Giving: If philanthropy is close to your heart, consider allocating a portion of your inheritance to charitable causes, making a positive impact on society.
  1. Avoid Impulsive Spending: While the sudden influx of wealth can be tempting, avoid making rash decisions. Focus on long-term benefits by adhering to a well-thought-out financial plan.

Personal Anecdote 1: Embracing Philanthropy

When Mark inherited a substantial amount from his distant relative, he chose to donate a part of it to charitable organisations working towards education for underprivileged children, thus honouring the memory of his relative in a meaningful way.

Personal Anecdote 2: Turning Inheritance into Opportunity

Linda used her inherited assets as a seed fund to start her own business. She transformed the financial boost into a thriving business venture, creating a legacy for herself and her family.

FAQ Section

In this section, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions about inheritance, aiming to provide you with a deeper understanding and guidance to navigate this significant life event successfully.

1. What is the first step after receiving an inheritance?

The first step after learning that you have been named a beneficiary is to give yourself time to process this information, especially if the inheritance comes after the loss of a loved one. Once you are ready, the next steps involve gathering necessary documents like the will, death certificate, and details about the assets you have inherited. It's also advisable to seek professional advice to understand the legal and financial implications and to plan the management of the assets wisely.

2. How to manage inherited real estate effectively?

Managing inherited real estate can sometimes be complex. Initially, it involves getting the property appraised to understand its current market value. Next, you have to decide whether to sell, rent, or use the property. Each option comes with its financial and tax considerations. For instance, renting the property can provide a steady income, while selling it might involve capital gains tax. It’s often beneficial to consult with a real estate advisor to make an informed decision that aligns with your financial goals and the potential of the property.

3. What are the tax implications of inheritance in Canada?

In Canada, there is no inheritance tax as such. However, the estate may be required to pay taxes on certain types of assets before they can be distributed to the beneficiaries. These could include capital gains tax on properties and taxes on the value of retirement accounts, except when transferred to a spouse or a common-law partner. It is essential to consult with a tax professional to understand the specific tax implications of the assets you have inherited and to plan accordingly.

4. How to seek professional advice for managing inheritance?

Seeking professional advice can be a prudent step in managing your inheritance wisely. You can start by consulting with a financial advisor who can help you understand the value of your inherited assets and how to integrate them into your financial plan. An estate lawyer can guide you through the legal aspects, ensuring a smooth transfer of assets. Tax professionals can help you navigate the tax implications, helping you to avoid potential pitfalls and to maximise the benefits of your inheritance.

5. What are the options for managing inherited investments?

Inherited investments, such as stocks, bonds, or mutual funds, can be managed in various ways. You might choose to keep the investments as they are, especially if they align with your financial goals and risk tolerance. Alternatively, you might decide to sell some or all of the investments to either reinvest in other avenues or to use the funds for other financial priorities. Consulting with a financial advisor can provide you with insights and guidance on how to manage these investments effectively, aligning with your broader financial plan.


As we reach the end of this comprehensive guide, we hope that the insights and strategies shared here will empower you to navigate the complexities of inheritance with wisdom and foresight. Remember, an inheritance is not just a financial windfall; it’s a significant responsibility and an opportunity to build a lasting legacy, one that honours the intentions and the memory of the person who left you the assets.

Armed with this knowledge, you are now better equipped to embark on this important journey, making informed decisions that not only secure a prosperous future for yourself but also potentially contribute positively to society.

By approaching this process with sensitivity, understanding, and a well-laid-out plan, you can turn your inheritance into a beacon of positive change, growth, and a source of enduring pride and fulfilment.

We wish you the very best in this significant phase of your life journey, hoping that the paths you choose lead to fulfilment and prosperity.

Table of Contents
Create a legal will online in as little as 10 minutes.
Illustration of a man sitting next to a typewriter.
Start for free

Ready to finally tick your will off your to-do list?

Create a will
Bottom mask