While not a legal question, I am often asked about how you can access funds that are in a LIRA – a Locked In Retirement Account. Funds in a LIRA were transferred from a former employment pension plan, and are still intended to be funds that you will live on upon retirement. Typically, funds in a LIRA can be accessed upon the owner turning 50 years old – they are converted into a life annuity, or a Life Income Fund (LIF) subject to the appropriate regulations.
In Alberta, there are other scenarios which permit you to access the funds in your LIRA, sometimes called “unlocking” your LIRA. They are:
- Access due to Considerably Shortened Life – if you have a terminal illness or disability,
- Becoming a Non-resident of Canada,
- Access to small amounts – if your LIRA is less than a specified balance, which is currently set at $10,500.00,
- 50% unlocking – if you are 50 years old or older, you may make a onetime withdrawal of up to 50% of the value of your LIRA. This type of unlocking must be done due to a termination, retirement, and is subject to tax on the funds removed from the LIRA, and
- Financial Hardship Unlocking – if you qualify for one of the specified situations of financial hardship.
A good resource provided by the Government of Alberta is here:
In British Columbia, there are only the following options for unlocking your LIRA:
- Amounts below Prescribed Limits, similar to #3 above,
- Shortened Life Expectancy, and
- Non-resident of Canada.
As far as I know, there are no other exceptions in BC, so options #4 and #5 above are not available to you.
Let me know if you think otherwise, or if I can help you with your legal matters.