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Getting a handle on existing government benefits and pensions related to the death of a loved one

Losing a loved one is very difficult, and there are a number of steps that must be completed before one can begin any kind of healing. Mourning is a very personal process. That said, when the administrative burden following someone’s death falls upon a loved one’s shoulders, the situation can quickly become overwhelming. There’s a desire to do things right to honour the deceased, without sidestepping any money to which the survivors are entitled. It’s therefore important to become familiar with some key pieces of information regarding government benefits and pensions to ease the burden when the time comes to file such applications.

Existing benefits and pensions

The Québec Pension Plan sets out three types of benefits for the loved ones of the deceased. As for the Canada Pension Plan, there is only one death benefit, with special criteria for Quebec. The easiest way to go about it is to contact directly the Québec Pension Plan and to mention if the deceased has paid into the Canada Pension Plan. The Québec Pension Plan will then work with the Canada Pension Plan to determine the benefits/pensions to which you are entitled.

Death benefit

The death benefit is a lump-sum payment of up to $2,500, where priority is given to the person or charitable organization that paid the funeral expenses. Should funeral expenses be less than $2,500, the difference is paid to the estate. The benefit can be paid to the deceased’s heirs should an application for funeral expenses not be submitted within 60 days of the death. If there are no heirs or if the heirs have renounced the estate, the death benefit can be paid to others in the following order: the deceased’s spouse, the descendants or ascendants of the deceased.

The surviving spouse’s pension

The surviving spouse’s pension under the Québec pension Plan ensures a basic income to the surviving spouse. If the deceased was in a common-law partnership, married, in a civil union or legally separated, the surviving spouse’s pension will be paid to the spouse. The related terms and conditions are determined accordingly. Up to $1,000 can be paid out monthly through this pension. The amount is determined based on certain considerations, including the age of the deceased’s spouse and the surviving spouse’s family situation.

The orphan’s pension

The orphan’s pension is payable to the person(s) who provides for the underage child of the deceased. It amounts to approximately $250 per month and is paid out until the child reaches the age of maturity.

Eligibility

Québec Pension Plan benefits and pensions are subject to the deceased having paid into the Plan. He/she has to have contributed during at least the third of the required contribution period set out by the Québec Pension Plan, or for at least 10 years. However, a death benefit may be paid out even if the deceased does not meet contribution eligibility criteria, as long as the deceased contributed at least $500 to the Plan without receiving a retirement or disability pension. Another exception is provided in the event the deceased suffered from a severe impairment. In such cases, further guidance should be sought regarding eligibility criteria.

How do these benefits/pensions impact your tax return?

Keep in mind that the benefits and pensions provided under the Québec Pension Plan are taxable. They must therefore be included in your tax return.

Other benefits/pensions to consider

It’s important to know that there are other organizations which provide such benefits and pensions as those listed in this article. Take a moment to go through the list below and contact any other organizations which may hold money to which you are entitled.

  • The deceased’s insurance company
  • The deceased’s private retirement plans
  • The Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST) if the death is the result of a work-related accident or illness
  • The Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) if the death is the result of a car accident
  • The Ministère du Travail, de l’Emploi et de la Solidarité sociale if the deceased did not contribute sufficiently to the Québec Pension Plan
  • The Bureau d’aide aux victimes d’actes criminels if the death is the result of a crime
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