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Documentation in the event of death: Take a deep breath . . . We’re here to help.

When someone passes away, the ensuing process may seem complex and especially burdensome for those coping with grief. The first step is to take a deep breath. The role of the funeral home is to offer support and guidance when the time comes to untangle the steps involved in settling an estate. The large number of documents with the word “death” in the title, in and of itself, can be quite mind-bending. In this case, knowledge and understanding are key. We’ve listed here a few of these documents, along with their definitions and purpose.

Documents whose title starts/ends with “Death”

REGISTRATION of Death

Also referred to as an ATTESTATION of Death, a Registration of Death is a form, filled out by a physician, stating the date, time and cause(s) of death. This form includes several copies that are to be sent to the registrar of civil status (Directeur de l’état civil), the ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux, the statistical institute (Institut de la statistique du Québec), the hospital’s medical records department and the funeral home. This document is required to transport the body of the deceased. To obtain a full copy of this document, you must contact the medical records department of the hospital where the death was pronounced.

STATEMENT of Death

This document is usually filled by someone close to the deceased, acting as the declarant of the death, with the guidance and support of the funeral home. The funeral home records information about the deceased, his or her spouse or common-law partner, parents, children, etc. Once all the required information is included, the form is sent to the Directeur de l’état civil. Through this step, the death is officially declared. A copy of the document is available upon request, however, it is not provided automatically.

Death CERTIFICATE

As its name suggests, this document certifies the death. Its use is rather limited as it does not provide enough information for the purposes of settling an estate. To obtain a copy of this document, an application must be submitted to the Directeur de l’état civil and a fee must be paid.

COPY of an ACT of Death

Issued upon request by the Directeur de l’état civil, a Copy of an Act of Death includes the Birth Certificate, the Marriage Certificate (if applicable) and the Death Certificate. This document contains complete information and is required by financial institutions, the Barreau du Québec and the Chambre des notaires du Québec, namely for the purposes of conducting research regarding a will or opening an estate account. Once again, to obtain a copy of this document, an application must be submitted to the Directeur de l’état civil and a fee must be paid.

ATTESTATION or PROOF of Death

This document is issued by the funeral home. While it is an official document, it is not recognized by all. It can be used to cancel a service agreement with a supplier, such as a cable company or a cell phone company. However, further documentation is required to open an estate account.

What documents to bring to your meeting with the funeral home?

There are no required documents, however, some documents may be helpful as they contain information you may not know off-hand:

  • The Birth Certificate of the deceased includes the location of birth and the names of his or her parents
  • The Divorce Certificate (if applicable) shows the date of the divorce (required for the record)
  • The deceased’s social insurance card (only the number will be recorded; the card will not be kept)
  • Driver’s licence (if applicable)
  • Firearms licence (if applicable)
  • Indian Status Card (if applicable)
  • If you have the deceased’s health insurance card, it will be retrieved and sent to the Régie de l’assurance-maladie du Québec
  • The concession contract of the cemetery in which the body or the ashes of the deceased are to be buried

Settling an estate, step by step

Such a responsibility can be quite overwhelming. The first thing to keep in mind is that it is a lengthy process that can take over one year to complete. Take your time. It can take nearly two months to receive some of the documents. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you.

Step 1: Record important information

The funeral home records a significant amount of important information, including your social insurance number, to complete the process. Government authorities are required to verify your identity to undertake certain steps and your SIN is the only sure way to do so.

Step 2: Fill out the Statement of Death documentation

The funeral home fills out the Statement of Death documentation.

Step 3: Request a copy of the Act of Death

The funeral home sends the Statement of Death to the Directeur de l’état civil. Once the Statement of Death is received, the funeral home requests a copy of the Act of Death. It is important to know that it can take anywhere from 40 to 60+ days to receive this document.

Step 4: Conduct will searches

Will searches can begin upon receipt of the copy of the Act of Death. WARNING: It is strongly recommended to have a notary perform this step to avoid any roadblocks or mishaps. Also, a notary can begin the search after obtaining the Statement of Death issued by the funeral home, without waiting for the copy of the Act of Death.

Step 5: Create an estate account

Once you have the will, the search results validating such will and a copy of the Act of Death, you can create an estate account by making an appointment at the financial institution of the deceased.

Step 6: Submit benefit applications

During this process, the funeral home sends in the various benefit applications: the Survivors’ benefits ($2,500 from Retraite Québec), the surviving spouse’s pension and the orphan’s pension, as required. They also take charge of cancelling the old age pension and filing other related applications.

Step 7: Liquidate the assets of the deceased

This step involves liquidating the assets of the deceased, including his or her home and belongings, and cancelling services such as cable, internet, phone, electricity, etc., or licences and registrations.

Step 8: Filing the tax returns of the deceased

Once everything is sorted out, you can move on to completing the final tax return of the deceased. If everything balances out, you will receive a government-issued CLEARANCE CERTIFICATE and the process will be over.

Step 9: Take a deep breath, it’s over

You can now take a step back and be proud of yourself for completing this long process.

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