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If you die before you retire

As a plan member, you're entitled to some form of survivor benefit if you die before we make your first pension payment. Knowing in advance what to expect can help you protect your loved ones.

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Information in this section only applies to members with credited service for employment in education after 1986. If your last credited service is prior to 1987, contact us for information on pre-retirement death benefits.

Benefits at a glance

This chart summarizes the benefits payable to your eligible survivors if you die before receiving your first pension payment. 

Eligible spouse Survivor pension (either immediate or deferred)
OR
Lump-sum payment (commuted value of your pension)
Dependent children
(if there was no eligible spouse or after eligible spouse's death)
Survivor pension
Designated beneficiary Lump-sum payment
Estate Lump-sum payment

When we're informed of your death, we'll provide your survivor with their options and the information they need to receive their survivor benefit.

Eligible survivors

Pre-retirement death benefits are paid in the following order:

1. Your eligible spouse

Your spouse is eligible for a survivor benefit if, at the time of your death, you:

  • Were married and not living separate and apart, or
  • Had been living together continuously for at least three years (or less if you're the parents of a child)
  • Your eligible spouse will have the choice of receiving the pre-retirement survivor benefit as a lump-sum payment or as a lifetime pension. They can transfer the lump-sum payment directly into an RRSP regardless of their available RRSP room.

    Prior to your death, your eligible spouse can waive the right to the survivor benefit by signing a benefit waiver. The survivor benefit then falls to the next eligible recipient (dependent children and either beneficiary or estate).

    A former spouse may be entitled to a portion of your pre-retirement death benefit if spelled out in a separation agreement or court order, providing the payment represents no more than 50% of your death benefit accrued during your marriage.

2. Your dependent children

The information in this section applies to surviving dependent children of members who had credited service in the plan on or after Jan. 1, 1990.

Dependent children may be eligible for a survivor pension when:

  • You don't have an eligible spouse when you die, or
  • Your surviving spouse dies while receiving a survivor pension
  • If you have more than one dependent child, your benefit is divided equally and paid to each child for as long as he or she remains eligible for benefits. Once one of your children ceases to be eligible, his or her portion of the pension is distributed equally among the remaining eligible children. Disabled children who are financially dependent may receive a survivor pension for life, as long as they continue to be disabled and not capable of gainful employment.

    For all children under age 18, the survivor pension is paid into the Accountant of Ontario Courts unless the child's guardian has been granted guardianship of the child's property by the courts. In these situations, the survivor pension is paid to the child's guardian.

  • If you die before your pension is put into pay, the amount of a dependent child survivor pension would be 50% of the pension that was or would have been paid to you after age 65.

  • Your surviving children are eligible to receive a dependent child survivor pension as long as they were dependent on you for support at the time of your death. He or she must be:

    • Under age 18, or
    • Age 18 to 24 and enrolled in full-time continuous education since age 18 or since you died, whichever occurred later, or
    • Disabled, having been disabled without interruption since you died
  • We consider the child dependent on you for support if you regularly and consistently contribute to the necessary maintenance, or the necessities of life, of the child.

    Necessities of life include food, clothing, shelter, medical care and/or transportation. You could contribute to a child's necessary maintenance by paying for certain items directly or by providing personal care and assistance that the child would otherwise need to purchase from a third party.

    It is not necessary for the child to be entirely dependent on you. For example, the child may live in a different home from you and receive support from several sources. However, the availability and the amount of other forms of support are relevant in determining whether a child relies on support from you for his or her basic needs.

  • A child is disabled if he or she has a "severe and prolonged mental or physical disability." The disability is considered to be severe if the person is incapable of regularly pursuing any substantially gainful occupation, and prolonged if it is likely to be long, continued, and of indefinite duration or likely to result in death.

     

    Please contact us if you have a disabled child and would like to know whether he or she might be eligible for a survivor pension; we can do a pre-assessment of your child's eligibility to assist you with your estate planning.

    The types of documents or information we may require to review entitlements for surviving dependent or disabled children can be found in the Survivor Pensions for Dependent Children fact sheet.

  • A dependent child survivor pension remains in pay for as long as there is at least one child who continues to be dependent. When the last eligible child ceases to be dependent, we must terminate the dependent child survivor pension.

    A disabled child is considered dependent only for as long as he or she continues to be disabled. We must terminate the survivor pension for disabled, dependent children if they:

    • Become gainfully employed, and/or
    • Recover from their disability to the point that it is no longer prolonged

    In both of these situations, the child would no longer meet the requirement of being “disabled without interruption since the member died.”

  • When a child is no longer dependent, they must notify us to stop payment of their survivor pension. If they don't notify us and continue to receive survivor pension payments to which they are not entitled, they must repay these payments, with interest.

    Please note that we may require a child who is receiving a disabled dependent child survivor pension to submit medical evidence confirming that they continue to meet the definition of disabled.

3. Your designated beneficiary

Every active member of our plan should designate a beneficiary. This ensures your benefits are paid according to your wishes, should you die before you receive your first pension payment without an eligible spouse.

You can designate a beneficiary to receive the lump-sum payment representing the commuted value of your pension. If you have a dependent child, the lump sum for your beneficiary will be reduced by the value of the survivor pension to your dependent child.

  • A designated beneficiary is eligible only if you don’t have an eligible spouse and death occurs before you receive your first pension payment.

    If you have an eligible child when you die, we will deduct the value of the child's survivor pension from the commuted value of your pension first, and refund the remainder to your beneficiary or your estate.

    Naming a beneficiary is important, but equally important is reviewing your beneficiary designation on a regular basis.

    To designate or review your beneficiary, update your profile.

  • You can name more than one beneficiary – person(s), such as a child, or organization(s), such as a charity. If you choose to name multiple beneficiaries, any pre-retirement death benefit will be divided equally among your beneficiaries.

  • It's not necessary to name your spouse as your designated beneficiary because an eligible spouse will receive your survivor benefits. This automatic right to your pension is enshrined in provincial pension law. The only exception to this rule applies when a valid separation agreement or court order assigns part of your benefit to a former spouse.

    By designating a beneficiary, you decide who should get your pension death benefits in case your spouse dies before you do.

  • If you want your children to receive the biggest death benefit possible, you must name them as your designated beneficiaries. Although dependent children automatically receive a survivor pension for as long as they qualify for it, there is often a benefit, in addition to their pension, to pay out. This benefit can be substantial if your dependent children are older and will qualify for a pension for only a few years.

    Children who aren't dependent on you will not receive any benefits unless they are named as your designated beneficiary.

    If you have a disabled child, it's important that you designate your beneficiaries carefully as there are different options available to ensure your child is protected. For example, there are trusts specifically designed to protect the assets of adult disabled children. These trusts give the trustee(s) different degrees of control over how the funds are used to pay for your child's needs. Please consult an independent advisor to determine the best way to protect your disabled child's future.

4. Your estate

If you don't have an eligible spouse, and you don’t name a beneficiary, your estate may receive a lump-sum payment. If you have a dependent child, then the lump-sum payment for your estate will be reduced by the value of your child's survivor pension.

Any funds paid to your estate will be administered by your estate trustee(s) according to the guidelines you specified in your will. If you die before you can prepare a will, only a court-appointed estate executor can assume responsibility of your estate.

It's never too early to prepare a will. Creating a will is a good way to ensure any funds payable to your estate are administered according to your wishes. You can designate an estate trustee (or executor) as the person responsible for managing and controlling your estate's assets.