How to Find Out if You Qualify for Death Benefits

Saddened as you may be, your financial interests come first when a spouse or common-law partner dies. Fortunately, insurance agents, Ontario employers and municipal, provincial and federal governments offer survivor benefits to ease your suffering.

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Collect Life Insurance Payouts 

Life insurance policies can be a prime source of income for Ontario survivors. Check with your insurance agent, local family lawyer or spouse’s or partner’s employer to see if you are a beneficiary. You could be entitled to lump sum or ongoing life insurance payments to help you manage financially.

Canvas Private Pension Plans

Some private sector employers offer joint and survivor pension benefits that include surviving spouses or common-law partners. Depending on the benefits your spouse chose, you could receive between 50% and 100% of their pension. Contact their employer to enquire. 

Ontario Public Service Pension Plan Entitlements

Spouses, common-law partners of at least a year and eligible children of Ontario public servants, or their estates, qualify for lifetime or time-limited survivor’s pensions, child allowances and lump sum supplementary death benefits. Your CPP or OAS (Old Age Security) benefits are not affected. 

If your spouse or partner had less than two years of pensionable service, you may receive a minimum benefit in a single, lump sum payment. Otherwise, you could qualify for a monthly, lifetime pension of 50% of their pension. Child allowances vary between 10% and 20% of pension benefits, up to a maximum of four children. Notify the Ontario pension plan if you believe you qualify. 

Advise the pension plan if you need assistance paying funeral costs, medical or maintenance expenses. The supplementary benefit can be used to pay these costs up front.

Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS) Benefits

Municipal employee in Ontario? OMERS offers a lifetime, monthly spousal survivor pension, plus allowances for eligible dependent children. Payments are based on 66 2/3% of your spouse’s or partner’s lifetime benefits and do not affect your CPP or OAS benefits. OMERS will send you the application package once they are aware of your spouse’s or partner’s death.

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Survivor’s Benefits for Workplace Deaths

If your spouse or common-law partner died from a work-related injury or disease, WSIB (Workplace Safety and Insurance Board) benefits may be available. Apply within six months of their death. You may request an extension in certain circumstances, such as if an accident prevented you from applying on time. 

Benefits can include:

  • monthly or lump sum payments of up to 85% of their net average earnings 
  • help to go back to work
  • counselling
  • funeral expenses and costs to transport their body.

You may qualify for a one-time lump sum payment if you were legally married and financially dependent on your spouse, regardless of whether you lived together or were separated. Ongoing monthly payments may be made to either a spouse, their dependent children, someone acting in the role as their parent (such as grandparents or guardians) or other dependents. The amount will depend on your spouse’s or partner’s age and number of spouses and dependents. 

You are considered a spouse if you lived together as a couple, regardless of gender; were married to each other; weren’t married but lived together at least one year; had a child together and lived in a relationship of some permanence; or had a cohabitation agreement under section 53 of Ontario’s Family Law Act.

CPP Death Benefits for Funeral Expenses

The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) gives estates of qualified contributors a one-time, lump sum payment of up to $2,500 to help with funeral costs. Estate executors or court-appointed administrators can apply within 60 days after death. For contributors who die intestate (without a will) or if the estate trustee hasn’t applied, payment may be made (in this order) to:

  • whoever pays the funeral expenses 
  • the surviving spouse or common-law partner
  • or the next of kin.

To qualify, the deceased must have contributed to CPP for either 10 calendar years or one-third of the calendar years they worked (a minimum of three calendar years), between ages 18 and 70 or whenever they began receiving the CPP retirement pension. Contributions to pension plans in other countries may be combined with CPP contributions to meet the eligibility requirement. An Axess Law Ontario wills and estates lawyer can answer any questions you may have.

CPP Survivor’s Pension, Including Benefit Top Ups

The CPP survivor’s pension is available to legal spouses or common-law partners of at least one year. You also qualify if you were separated and your spouse did not have a common-law partner. You may keep the pension if you remarry but can only collect one survivor’s pension if you are widowed.

A spouse or partner under 65 receives a flat rate plus 37.5% of the deceased’s CPP retirement pension (up to $638.28 monthly in 2020). Survivors over 65 receive 60% of a spouse’s or partner’s CPP retirement pension, to a maximum of $705.50 a month. The amount will be reduced if you qualify for other CPP benefits, such as a retirement or disability pension.

Apply, or have your personal representative do so, within 12 months of the date of death. You may lose some benefits if you delay. Your application will take about six to 12 weeks to approve. 

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Affordable Legal Services Across Ontario

For legal advice on qualifying for survivor benefits, call Axess Law toll free at 1-877-552-9377 or 647-479-0118 in Toronto or use our online booking form. Lawyers are available across Ontario via video call, 7 days a week, at times convenient for you. In person appointments in Toronto, Scarborough, Mississauga, North York, Vaughan, Etobicoke or Ottawa.
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