Saturday, October 26, 2019

Travel Insurance

It's Travel Season again.  Are you travelling outside of Ontario?  The Ontario government will no longer be covering any out of country medical emergency expenses (as of January 1, 2020) and does not cover all expenses in other provinces.  

Many group plans include Out of Province Medical Emergency coverage as do some credit cards.  However, some of these coverages may be for a limited time, require that you purchase the tickets with the card, or no longer be valid after age 65.  If you are depending on this type of coverage, check your policy booklets.

It’s up to you to ensure that any travel insurance you have includes coverage for pre-existing medications and pre-existing medical conditions. Most insurance policies consider a change in medication (that’s decreases as well as increases) to be a change in the condition.  Most policies require that you are stable for at least 90 days (and the length of time can be longer at older ages) and that your doctor said that it was okay for you to travel.

If you plan to leave the country more than twice in a year, check to see if an annual (or multi-trip) plan makes more sense.  FYI – These plans cover you for an unlimited number of trips, based on the number of days you purchase, as long as you spend at least one night in Ontario between trips.
There are also plans that will cover all your medical conditions, even those that are not stable.

Give me a call or drop me an email and we can discuss your specific requirements.

TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) 201

Every year, I write an article of my experiences at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).  FYI a list of the movies I saw (including my ice cream cone ratings) as well as the winners if the TIFF 2019 awards are listed below.

TIFF runs for 10 days, beginning the Thursday after Labour Day.  People attend TIFF many different ways. Some just wander Festival (King) Street the first weekend and people watch, others go to see the stars, many want to be the first to see the new Hollywood release, some go to hear the directors talk about their films after the showing, I go to see documentaries and foreign films that may not show again in Toronto.

Every year, I put together an article and give some talks after TIFF highlighting my “theme” for the year.  This year, it is Perspective.  Many of the movies I saw either featured 2 characters with very different views (e.g. The Two Popes) or presented a viewpoint that I hadn’t considered (e.g. Judy and The Birds Rained Down).  In life and in business, being aware that the person that you are talking to may have a different idea or perspective from you, often makes your conversation more useful to both.

Let me start with a movie that was produced by Netflix, so keep your eyes open for it. It's called The Two Popes and is about a series of fictional conversations between Pope Benedict (a conservative) played by Sir Anthony Hopkins and Pope Francis (a person who believes in change) played by Jonathan Pryce.  In life, everything is constantly changing and evolving and it's really how you adapt that matters.  This movie shows how people and norms evolve over time.

Judy (release date was Sept. 27, 2019) is mostly about the last year of Judy Garland’s life and her concert series in London. This is a heart-rending adaptation of Peter Quilter's stage play End of the Rainbow, featuring RenĂ©e Zellweger as Judy.  Like many of you, I've read and seen many stories about her.  Did you know that she went out of her way to be kind to her supporting staff? This one is mostly from her fictional perspective and left me feeling sad for her - so it changed my perspective.

And the Birds Rained Down is a film out of Quebec and it should have at least limited distribution in Canada.  It is based on the book by Jocelyne Saucier and is the story of 3 hermits living in the bush. It is a fascinating take on aging and self-determination.  I plan to read the book, something I rarely do after I’ve seen a movie (I prefer to read the book first).  Acclaimed director Louise Archambault's film depicts three aging hermits in the Quebec countryside whose defiant need to live independently is increasingly endangered by nature, old age, infirmity and 2 women (a young photographer and an aging women who ran away from a seniors residence).   I can’t say much more or I may ruin it for you.

The Perfect Candidate is about a female doctor in Saudi Arabia and her accidental foray into running for political office.  It talks about the changing norms in the country as well as how people change and adapt over time.  Frustrated with the limits placed upon her, because of her gender, a small-town Saudi doctor takes matters into her own hands and runs for local council (almost accidentally).  It made me think that it may be time to re-evaluate my own life.  Don’t worry – nothing drastic like a change of career, just a couple of work life balance adjustments.

The final movie I’m going to highlight is Black Bitchthe story of a  local Indigenous politician (Deborah Mailman) who is recruited to the senate by the Australian Prime Minister (Rachel Griffiths) after a contentious video goes viral, in Rachel Perkins' drama about systemic injustice, the complexities of political change and how looking at a problem from a different perspective can make all the difference to the end result.

All the movies I saw this year were excellent and everyone had a Q & A afterwards.  These sessions give you a glimpse into the process of the film making and / or the importance of the film to the produce, director and actors.  It’s one of the highlights of going to TIFF.

If you’ve never attended, put it into your calendar for next year.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Recreational and Medical Cannabis

Medical Marijuana has been legal in Canada since 1999. There are a wide range of conditions that it is used for. Not all insurance plans will pay for medical marijuana. Every insurance company has a different list of medical conditions that they will cover. In most cases, you need to submit a "Prior Authorization" form to the insurance company before claims will be paid.  Some medical conditions that have been approved include:
  • Cancer (pain and nausea)
  • Multiple Sclerosis (pain)
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis (pain)
  • HIV / AIDS
  • Palliative Care
  • Epilepsy (children only)
  • Multiple Sclerosis (stiffness and involuntary muscle spasms) i
Currently all medical marijuana requires a doctor's prescription and must be ordered online.
The two main chemicals in Cannabis that have been studied are:
  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) - the chemical that makes you "high"
  • Cannabidiol (CBD) - the chemical with medical applications
Most Medical Marijuana is primarily CBD. Most patients currently purchase it as an oil, though topical creams and capsules are also available.
Cannabis grow
Recreational Cannabis will soon be legal in Canada. The current anticipated date is October 17, 2018.
Once Cannabis is legal, Canadians (in most provinces) will be permitted to:
  • Purchase fresh or dried cannabis, cannabis oil, plants and seeds.
  • Possess up to 30 grams of dried legal cannabis or its equivalent in public.
  • Share up to 30 grams (or its equivalent) of legal cannabis and legal cannabis products with other adults
  • Cultivate up to four plants at home (four plants total per household). This option may not be available in condos and rental units.
  • Prepare various cannabis products (such as edibles) at home for personal use, provided that no dangerous organic solvents are used in the process.
In Ontario, the legal age will be 19+ and it can only be smoked on Private Property. Note - Non-Smoking rules take precedence. Where it can be purchased has not yet been determined.
If you travel to the U.S., entry is at the sole discretion of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers on duty - and they have a lot of latitude to ask questions to determine the admissibility of a foreign national. U.S. immigration lawyers are already warning Canadians that they could be denied entry to the U.S. - or barred from the U.S. for life - if they admit to smoking cannabis to a border agent. The drug is still a prohibited substance under U.S. federal law, despite legalization in some U.S. states.
If you have additional questions (such as how does this affect the workplace or what may be covered on your health plan) and want to discuss this area further, give me a call.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Digital Assets

Estate planning has changed over the years and now should include your digital assets and reference to them should be included in your will. Remember not to include too many details (e.g. passwords) as after your death, your will becomes a public document.
What is a digital asset? It is any information about you or created by you that exists in electronic form. This information can be stored in:
  • hardware (computers, tablets, smart phones, hard drives, flash drives,...)
  • cloud (stored on your devices or in the cloud)
  • e-mail
  • websites
  • social media accounts
  • PayPal
  • Banking (accounts and credit cards)
These assets include both personal and business ones.
What steps do you need to take?
  1. The first step is to download this form to use as a guide to document all of your digital assets.
  2. Then make a list that includes how to access them (where they are as well as passwords). Remember this list changes, so it will need to be updated regularly.
  3. Decide what you want done with each item. Should it be disabled (e.g. Facebook); should the assets be distributed (e.g. family photos and the value in your Tim Hortons card); should someone else have access (e.g. bank accounts).
  4. Decide who you want to handle these assets on your behalf.
  5. Talk to your lawyer. Remember to include instructions in case you are unable to take care of them during your lifetime as well as after your death.
  6. Store the information in a secure place.
  7. Finally - this information should be reviewed annually as it changes more frequently than physical assets (at least mine do).
Good luck with your planning.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Naming a Beneficiary on your Insurance & Investment Policies

In Ontario, the value of naming a beneficiary versus leaving money to your estate is significant.  

If you name a beneficiary, an insurance company is obligated, under the Insurance Act, to pay any death benefit proceeds to the named beneficiary on record. Because the death benefit proceeds do not pass through the estate, they not only avoid the delays of settling the estate but also bypass probate and other estate administration fees. In Ontario, probate fees on assets over $50,000 are 1.5%. Other estate administration, accounting and legal fees could be another 5% or more depending on the complexity of the estate.

The other reason to name a beneficiary is it makes the transaction private. Unlike a will - which becomes a public document, available for anyone to see when it goes to probate - naming a beneficiary means that only the person named needs to know the specifics. The extra privacy can prevent jealousy and tension among those named (or not named) in a will and reduce bad feelings over "getting my fair share".

Do you have a Life Insurance Policy, a Registered Investment Policy (e.g. a RRSP) or a Segregated Fund Investment Policy? All of these should have both a primary and a contingent beneficiary named on the policy (not in your will).

If you're not sure whether you have named a beneficiary, get in touch with me and I'll be pleased to help you out.