Death benefits for spouses after the breakdown of a union

To find out the consequences of the breakdown of a union on payment of survivors' benefits to a spouse, former spouses must contact the pension plan administrator.

Breakdown of a union

The breakdown of a union includes:

  • divorce
  • separation from bed and board (legal separation)
  • annulment of marriage
  • annulment of civil union
  • dissolution
  • end of the conjugal relationship of de facto (common law) spouses (de facto separation).

The breakdown of a union excludes the de facto separation of spouses who are married or in a civil union.

De facto separation of married spouses or spouses in a civil union has no effect on the spouse's right to the death benefit.

Supplemental pension plans

If there is a breakdown in the union, the spouse loses entitlement to survivor's benefits following the plan member's death. However, there are exceptions. Some are provided for under the Supplemental Pension Plans Act (such as maintaining the possibility of a joint and survivor pension), and others under the plan. Entitlement may also depend on choices that the plan member or spouse has made.

Each situation is different. The fact that a plan member and his or her spouse have made an agreement for the spouse to be entitled to survivors' benefits after the member's death is no guarantee that the pension plan has an obligation to pay those benefits.

Voluntary retirement savings plans

Under the Voluntary Retirement Savings Plans Act, the member's spouse at the time of the member's death is entitled, unless he or she has waived that right, to the balance in the member's accounts, regardless of whether the spouse has been named beneficiary, and regardless of who the members' heirs are. In the event of the breakdown of a union, the spouse loses this right under the law. However, the spouse may be entitled to these amounts for another reason, for example, if he or she is named in the member's will as his or her heir.

Ask the plan administrator about the different payment options. These options may vary depending on the beneficiary (spouse or other).

Legal references

The Gouvernement du Québec publishes its Web pages in French. Consistent with the Charter of the French Language and to inform stakeholders outside Québec, this page is also published in English.
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