Last month, on the Dr. Laurie’s CJAD Radio Show “Passion”, a caller inquired whether or not non married couples benefit from Survivor Pensions and if their children were eligible for Orphan Benefits.

There are 3 types of Survivor Benefits in Quebec.

Survivor Spouse Benefit

In general, a Survivor Pension ensures basic income to the surviving spouse of a person who sufficiently contributed to the Quebec Pension Plan in his/her lifetime.

In order to receive a surviving spouse pension, that person must qualify as the “de facto” [in fact] spouse, regardless of marriage bonds. And to be the “de facto” spouse, you must be able to establish, to the satisfaction of the Régie (des Rentes du Québec), that you were living with the deceased person for at least 3 years prior to the death, if the couple had no children. If, on the other hand, they have children, then only one (1) year of cohabitation is required.

Moreover, since April 4, 1985, same-sex spouses are also eligible to be beneficiaries of the survivor’s pension.

Remember, the above is only one of the prerequisites needed to apply for the survivor pension. The de cujus [always loved this term to describe a deceased person] must have been contributing to the Plan (R.R.Q.) for at least 1/3 of the total contributory period and for a minimum of 3 years.

Note of interest: You may have more than 1 deceased spouse over the course of your life, without the necessity of having to hire a criminal attorney, but you may only receive 1 survivor benefit, whichever is the larger benefit amount.

Regardless of actually having work, the “contributory” period begins in the month following the 18th birthday, or on January 1, 1966 if one was 18 before that date.

The end of the “contributory” period is either:

– The month just prior to the month one commenced receiving the retirement pension;

– the month one turns 70;

– the month of death; whichever occurs first.

The amount that the surviving spouse will receive is ascertained based on the following 6 factors:

  1. The actual contributions made by the deceased.
  2. The pension supplement, if any, received.
  3. Whether the survivor spouse supports “dependent” children (i.e.: children under age 18 as the couple was unmarried) and the children must be issue of the union of the couple (i.e.: not another person’s children).
  4. The age of the survivor spouse (doesn’t that sound like a new reality TV show!)
  5. Whether the recipient is disabled.
  6. Whether the recipient is already receiving a retirement or disability pension.

And do not delay in applying for the benefit, as retroactivity is good only up to 12 months (i.e.: don’t apply 2 years after the death and expect a big cheque unless perhaps you can prove you were in a coma?)

The monthly amount to be received varies. Until December 31, 2015, those amounts are between $518.68 max (under 45 – no dependent children) and $865.19 (under 45 + disabled, with or without dependents or between 45 + 64).

If you are already 65 + but do not receive a retirement pension, you are entitled to $639.00 only; if you already receive the maximum payable for that year and you are 65 +, payment of the survivor pension will end. Therefore, it is always a good idea to inquire about other forms of benefits payable after your death to your close and/or dependent survivors (such as Life Insurance and/or Trusts), if you wish to provide for them in a more substantial way.

Orphans’ Benefits

Payable until the child(ren) reaches 18 years of age, whether the parents were married or not and whether the child is biologically related or adopted makes no difference. Note that under Canadian Pension Benefits “children” may be eligible to receive this benefit till age 25 if attending a recognized educational institution full-time.

Again, payment starts in the month following the death and retroactivity is limited to 12 months.

In 2015, the amount for each child is $234.87 per month.

The benefit is indexed every year and is taxable and must be reported in each child’s income. Only 1 pension is paid [which seems unfair] even if both parents die, the one after the other [sounds like a possible Class Action suit?]. The payment is made to the primary/custodial caregiver who supports the minor child of the deceased. For the Canadian Benefit, after age 18, the payment can be made to the “child” directly.

If both pensions are payable, [Survivor and Orphan Pensions], they are made in one single monthly payment [which raises the question as to what happens if the child is an emancipated minor].

Death Benefit

This is a one time taxable payment of $2,500.00, paid in priority to the person who or charitable organization which paid for the funeral expenses, if filed within 60 days of the death. One would think, given the rise in funeral costs, that the amount would have increased, or at least have been indexed since its inception!

Canada Survivor Death Benefits

These benefits follow closely the same rules as we just read under the Quebec Section. The form, ISP 1300, available in PDF format, must be mailed in, whereas Quebec forms can be completed online.

Also, if you lost a CPP Survivor Benefit due to re-marriage, you might be now eligible. Contact servicecanada.gc.ca to find out if you are re-eligible.

Conclusion

So my advice, in conclusion, is that such payments, while helpful, are not sufficient to raise a child, let alone care for yourself, so be forewarned and get monetarily protected by the numerous other vehicles available out there – and do it NOW!

You can find and complete the 3 Quebec application forms online at rrq.gouv.qc.ca/deces.

Me Hammerschmid is a practicing Family Law Attorney since 1982 and Senior Partner at Hammerschmid & Associates, 1 Westmount Square, Suite 1290; and a founding and current member (past Secretary for 28 years) of the Family Law Association of Quebec. She can be reached at 514-846-1013 or hammerschmid@vif.ca. Inquiries treated confidentially. A frequent guest inn CBC TV/Radio, CTV and CJAD on Family Law; Me Hammerschmid is a monthly guest with Dr. Laurie Betito on CJAD’s Passion, on the last Thursday of each month.

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