When Liberal Member of Parliament Frank Valeriote was an estate lawyer, he saw grieving people struggle with their duties as executors.
In addition to CRA, executors must contact many government departments and agencies. Someone settling the estate of an elderly veteran who liked to hunt and travel, for instance, would at the very least have to contact Employment and Skills Development Canada, Veterans Affairs, the RCMP (for firearms disposal) and Passport Canada. Many situations are more complicated.
As a lawyer, Valeriote says he would encourage executors to contact departments themselves to save legal fees—but they’d often leave the task to him because they were overwhelmed. “It’s something you ought to be able to do yourself,” he says.
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Indeed it is. And it’s why advisors should support Valeriote’s proposed Act to Expand the Mandate of Service Canada (Bill C-247).
The proposed law would make Service Canada the federal point of contact for executors. Service Canada would notify other departments, after which relevant departments would contact an executor.
In the U.K., a similar “tell us once” policy has saved the government $300 million over 10 years. The savings come from less red tape and fewer accidental benefit overpayments.
And a single contact means executors only have to wrangle one set of documents. Right now, each department has its own standards for death notifications. For instance, some require a will; others ask for a probated will.
Valeriote’s proposal is a practical and straightforward way to eliminate this bureaucracy. That’s why all parties in the House of Commons support it. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau have voted in its favour. The problem is, Valeriote’s standing as an opposition party MP makes the bill a low priority. This is the third attempt to pass it.
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The two previous attempts were automatically scrapped by election calls. It’s currently tracking well—it’s passed first reading in the Senate—but will have to start from scratch if it isn’t passed before the next election, which could be as soon as this spring. Complicating matters, Valeriote isn’t running for re-election; so, if this effort fails, another politician would have to shepherd the bill on its fourth trip through Parliament.
Lobbying records show none of the financial services community’s many advocacy groups have made a point of supporting this bill. That includes CALU, IIAC, Advocis and STEP.
This should change.
The bill is heading for the Senate, and Valeriote says it could use a boost. He suggests people write to “senators from the Conservative and independent side to encourage them to pass this as quickly as possible.”
So get writing. This bill will make your clients’ lives easier. Estates will be settled faster, and there will be fewer unintended loose ends. Eventually, all our loved ones will benefit.
Jessica Bruno is a Toronto-based financial writer.