Learn about designated beneficiaries

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Learn about designated beneficiaries

A designated beneficiary is the person you want to give a particular asset to after you die, without writing it in your will.

Examples of property that can have designated beneficiaries are:

  • life insurance policies
  • pensions
  • registered investments, such as a tax-free savings account (TSFA), registered retirement savings plan (RRSP), or registered retirement income fund (RRIF)

When you die, the asset usually goes directly to the designated beneficiary. It does not become part of your estate and it is not included when calculating probate fees.

Choosing a designated beneficiary

In most cases, you can name anyone to be a designated beneficiary. It doesn't have to be a spouse or child. It could be a common-law partner, grandchild, niece, or friend, or even a charity.

You may also be able to name 2 or more people as designated beneficiaries to share the same asset. You can say what share of the asset each person gets. For example, you might want your 2 children to each get 50% of the asset.

You may also be able to name an alternate beneficiary if the first person you named dies before you do.  

Keep in mind, if your spouse or common-law partner is your designated beneficiary and you later separate from or divorce them, they still get that asset after you die unless you remove them as your designated beneficiary.

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Ontario Securities Commission
Reviewed: October 31, 2019

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