What to expect in 2016
From a legal perspective, here is what I anticipate will be in the news next year.
Canada Pension and Old Age Security
As Canadians by the thousands continue to apply for CPP benefits, it will become even more clear (if it isn’t already) that too many people depend heavily on their CPP and OAS benefits.
Meanwhile, new rules allow a deferral of the OAS benefit in favour of an increased monthly benefit. After age 65, every month of deferral brings a 0.6% benefit increase, up to age 70 (where the benefit rises by 36%).
So if a person starts both pensions today, at age 65, they will receive a maximum of about $1,660. If they earn more than about $67,000 of taxable income, their OAS will start getting “clawed back.”
The issue that has been in debate the last few years is the amount of the CPP benefit. Since we pay into the CPP (we do not pay into the OAS; it is funded from government general revenue), and since so many people depend on their pensions for their income, there is concern that the benefit is insufficient for many Canadians.
The value of the Canada Pension Plan is in excess of $220 billion, an all-time high. Many groups across the country therefore felt an increase to the CPP benefit was appropriate.
I don’t expect that the (Federal) Liberal government will follow. I expect there will be more discussion, leading to an increase of some sort, though how much and when are yet to be determined.
Another, major factor to consider is that, in the next three or four years, given the numbers of retiring Canadians, payouts from the CPP will exceed the amounts of contributions we are making.
With so many Canadians becoming pensioners, and a new government seeming more receptive to the CPP issue, you can expect a change in the debate.
Right to ‘die’
Life expectancy in B.C. leads the Canadian rates. Men here can now expect to live roughly to age 82, while women can expect to live to age 85. But it doesn’t stop there.
Since the Terry Schiavo case in the United States, more than 10 years ago, the issue has become one of the quality of life. British Columbians have sought to make Representation Agreements (“RA”s) in larger numbers since the Schiavo case.
I expect to see and hear more discussion relating to people wanting to right to control their own passing. In cases where the people are afflicted with a degenerative disease (such as cancer or ALS), it is hard to argue with a person’s desire to end their life, where they have full capacity to make that kind of difficult decision.
You can expect to see and hear more in the coming year with this debate, and I expect we will get closer to legislation that will allow the right to die. It likely won’t happen in the next year, but we are on the road, partly because of cost pressures in our health care system.
In B.C., spouses and children (who feel unfairly bequeathed, so to speak) of a deceased person are eligible to seek to vary their Will. In the last five years, it would seem that the volume of cases has increased.
It probably partly relates to the meteoric rise in real estate prices over the last decade. Estates have become more valuable, so there is “more to fight for” (so to speak).