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I’m worried my inheritance may affect my ODSP eligibility. What can I do?

The good news is, you’ve inherited some money. You hope this means you won’t need to rely on Ontario Disability Support Program benefits any more. Realistically, that may not be the case. 

At the same time, the person who left you the money probably didn’t think about your ODSP eligibility. And they may have left you just enough that you can’t claim ODSP any more. 

So, not enough money to cover everything you will need in the years ahead, yet enough that you no longer qualify for ODSP. What do you do? 

The first thing is to let the ODSP know about your inheritance. The second, with the help of a lawyer, is to come up with a plan. 

How much can I own? 

The maximum value of assets you can hold as an ODSP recipient is currently $40,000 for one person, $50,000 for a couple, and $500 for each dependent. (There are exceptions, which are explained below.)

ODSP requires that you report all changes to your income or assets. If you don’t do this in a timely manner, you may have to repay ODSP for the benefits you received in the months since the change occurred. 

For this reason, it is important to report an inheritance and provide a proposal setting out how you plan to manage your inheritance as soon as possible. That way you can avoid potential repayments and/or reductions in ODSP benefits.

How can I preserve my ODSP eligibility?

Often the amount you have inherited won’t be enough to cover your living and personal expenses for the remainder of your lifetime, particularly as you age. So it is important to try to preserve as much of your ODSP benefits as you can. 

If you have received or will be receiving an inheritance, you can make a proposal to the Director of ODSP to set out how you plan to use your inheritance in a way that will preserve your ODSP eligibility. 

In simple terms, a “proposal” is a letter to ODSP which reports the amount of the inheritance that you have or will be receiving, and sets out a plan for some or all of those funds to be placed in “exempt assets” so that you can continue to be eligible for ODSP benefits. 

What are exempt assets?

There are several types of assets and sources of income that are excluded from the calculation of a person’s assets and income for the purposes of determining ODSP eligibility. These are referred to as “exempt assets”. Examples of exempt assets include (but are not limited to):

  • A principal residence; 

  • A motor vehicle; 

  • A pre-paid funeral;

  • A Registered Disability Saving Plans (RDSP); 

  • A trust derived from inheritance up to a maximum of $100,000; and

  • Life insurance policies with a cash surrender value of up to $100,000.  

The type of proposal that you can make to ODSP will depend on a number of factors, including: the amount of your inheritance; the types of assets you already own; and your eligibility for the disability tax credit. 

The rules and regulations surrounding what can be done to preserve your ODSP when receiving an inheritance can be complex and confusing. If you have  or will receive an inheritance and are concerned about how it may affect your ODSP eligibility, you should contact a lawyer to discuss your options and prepare a proposal that is right for you.  

Brittany Miller