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Planning for Loved Ones

Survivor benefits are a key feature of the OMERS pension plan, and part of our commitment to providing a secure future for members and their survivors.

Survivor benefits and options available depend on whether death occurs before or after retirement.


When an OMERS Member Dies Before Retirement

OMERS needs to be notified of the member's death as soon as possible to process the survivor benefit.

  • If the deceased member was still working for an OMERS employer, the employer notifies OMERS.

  • If the deceased member was not with an OMERS employer but had left their pension with OMERS (deferred it until a future date), contact  OMERS Member Services. We will need to know:

    • the deceased member's name

    • social insurance number

    • the employer's name or group number

    • the date of death.

When an OMERS member dies before retirement, benefits are payable in this order of entitlement:

Relationship to you

Type of Benefit

  1. Your pre-retirement spouse is first in line for survivor benefits.

Survivor pension

  • 66 2/3% of the lifetime pension you earned to the date of death or to the date you left your OMERS employer;
  • plus a further 10% for each eligible dependent child, up to a total of 100% of the pension earned.

This pension:

  • is guaranteed for life (it does not stop if your spouse remarries);
  • indexed to inflation;
  • does not include the OMERS bridge benefits; and
  • in the event the commuted value of the survivor pension is less than the member’s commuted value, the difference is reflected in the survivor pension payable.

- or -

Cash refund or transfer

The cash refund or transfer to a non-locked-in registered retirement savings arrangement is paid in lump sum and equals:

  • the commuted value of the pension earned since January 1, 1987;
  • plus any contributions you made before 1987, plus interest to the date of your death.
  1. If there is no pre-retirement spouse a pension will be paid to any eligible dependent children for as long as they are eligible.

Children's pension

  • 66 2/3% of the lifetime pension you earned to the date of death or the date you left your OMERS employer.

This pension:

  • is divided equally among the eligible children and is paid to, or on behalf of, each child (when a child is no longer eligible, the benefit is redistributed among your remaining eligible children);
  • is indexed to inflation; and
  • does not include the OMERS bridge benefit.
  1. If there is no pre-retirement spouse or eligible dependent children, your designated beneficiary(ies) on file may be entitled to a cash refund. (To register a beneficiary, you must complete a paper Beneficiary designation - Form 206.)

The cash refund is paid in a lump sum and equals:

  • the commuted value of the pension you earned since January 1, 1987;
  • plus any contributions you made before 1987, plus interest to the date of your death.
  1. If there is no retirement-date spouse, post-retirement date spouse, eligible dependent children or designated beneficiaries, the cash refund of the pension may be paid to your estate.

See the description in #3.

In the case of benefits for a minor child, benefits of $10,000 or less can be paid to the adult who has custody of the child; benefits over $10,000 are subject to Guardianship of Property rules. The benefit is payable for the period that the child is eligible.


Additional refunds

In addition to OMERS survivor benefits, the following refunds may be payable in the event of death before retirement.


50% Rule refund

If your contributions plus interest from January 1, 1987 to the date of death is greater than 50% of the commuted value of the pension earned since 1987, OMERS will refund any excess contributions to your designated beneficiary(ies) or, if none, to your estate.

Special refund

When the commuted value of your OMERS Plan pension is greater than the amount needed to fund the survivor benefit for your eligible dependent child(ren), the difference is paid as an OMERS Plan special refund. It is paid to your living designated beneficiaries on file or, if none, to your estate.


Calculating the survivor pension

The survivor's pension is based on the lifetime pension the member earned to the date of death or to the date they left their OMERS employer. The survivor's pension does not include the OMERS bridge benefit. See the OMERS Plan Pension Formula in the Member Handbook for more about how the member's lifetime pension is calculated.

Glossary

Retirement-date Spouse - If you die after your pension has started, your retirement-date spouse is your legal spouse or common-law spouse on the date your first pension payment is due provided you were not “living separate and apart” on that date and he or she has not waived rights to survivor benefits.

Post-retirement-date Spouse - If you enter into a spousal relationship after retirement, and there is no person who qualifies as your retirement-date spouse, OMERS considers the surviving legal spouse or common-law spouse at the date of your death to be the eligible spouse for the purpose of spousal survivor benefits, provided you were not “living separate and apart” (see previous page) and he or she has not waived rights to survivor benefits.

Eligible Dependent Child - OMERS considers an eligible child to be:

  • a natural child;

  • a legally adopted child; or

  • a person whom you have demonstrated a settled intention to treat as a child of your family (except under an arrangement where the child is placed for valuable consideration in a foster home by a person having lawful custody).

At the time of your death:

  • the eligible child must be dependent on you for support and also must be:

  • 18 years or younger in the year of your death;

  • under age 25 and a full-time student; or

  • totally disabled.

Bridge Benefit - If your pension starts before age 65, you may be entitled to the OMERS bridge benefit. This temporary benefit helps “bridge” your OMERS pension until age 65, when your Canada Pension Plan (CPP) pension is expected to begin.

Beneficiary - For OMERS, your designated beneficiary is the person you designate by completing Form 206 - Beneficiary Designation

Post-retirement-date - If you enter into a spousal relationship after retirement, and there is no person who qualifies as your retirement-date spouse, OMERS considers the surviving legal spouse or common-law spouse at the date of your death to be the eligible spouse for the purpose of spousal survivor benefits, provided you were not “living separate and apart” (see previous page) and he or she has not waived rights to survivor benefits.

Commuted Value - The commuted value is the estimated amount of money you would have to invest today to provide you with a future benefit similar to the OMERS Plan pension you’ve earned.

Pre-retirement spouse - If you die before your pension start date, your pre-retirement spouse is your legal spouse or common-law spouse on the date of your death (before retirement) provided you were not “living separate and apart” on the date of your death and he or she has not waived rights to survivor benefits.


When an OMERS Member Dies After Retirement

OMERS Member Services needs to be notified of the member's death as soon as possible to start the survivor benefit process. 
We will need to know:

  • the deceased member's name

  • the OMERS reference number or social insurance number

  • the date of death.

When a retired OMERS member dies after their OMERS pension has started, benefits are payable in this order of entitlement:

Relationship to you

Type of Benefit

  1. Your retirement-date spouse (or post retirement-date spouse if there is no eligible retirement-date spouse) is first in line for a survivor pension.

Survivor pension

  • 66 2/3% of the lifetime pension you were receiving at the date of death;
  • plus a further 10% for each eligible dependent child, up to a total of 100% of your lifetime pension.

This pension:

  • is guaranteed for life (it does not stop if the surviving spouse remarries);
  • is indexed to inflation; and
  • does not include the OMERS Plan bridge benefit.
  1. If there is no retirement-date spouse or post-retirement spouse, a pension will be paid to any eligible dependent children for as long as they are eligible.

Children’s pension

Equal to the greater of:

  • 66 2/3% of the lifetime pension you were receiving at the date of death; or
  • the survivor’s pension the spouse was receiving at their date of death (less any entitlement for eligible children).

This pension:

  • is divided equally among the eligible children and is paid to, or on behalf of, each child (when a child is no longer eligible, the benefit is redistributed among the remaining eligible children);
  • is indexed to inflation; and
  • does not include the OMERS bridge benefit.
  1. If there is no retirement-date spouse, post-retirement-date spouse or eligible dependent children, your designated beneficiary (ies) on file may be entitled to a residual refund. (To register a beneficiary, you must complete a paper Form).

The residual refund is the total of your OMERS contributions plus interest, minus any pension paid to you and/or your survivors.

Note: After about five years of retirement, most members have received pension payments equal to their contributions plus interest, so there may not be a residual refund.

  1. If there is no retirement-date spouse, post-retirement date spouse, eligible dependent children or designated beneficiaries, the residual refund of the pension may be paid to your estate.

See the description in #3.

In the case of benefits for a minor child, benefits of $10,000 or less can be paid to the adult who has custody of the child; benefits over $10,000 are subject to Guardianship of Property rules. The benefit is payable for the period that the child is eligible.

Glossary

Retirement-date Spouse - If you die after your pension has started, your retirement-date spouse is your legal spouse or common-law spouse on the date your first pension payment is due provided you were not “living separate and apart” on that date and he or she has not waived rights to survivor benefits.

Post-retirement-date Spouse - If you enter into a spousal relationship after retirement, and there is no person who qualifies as your retirement-date spouse, OMERS considers the surviving legal spouse or common-law spouse at the date of your death to be the eligible spouse for the purpose of spousal survivor benefits, provided you were not “living separate and apart” (see previous page) and he or she has not waived rights to survivor benefits.

Eligible Dependent Child - OMERS considers an eligible child to be:

  • a natural child;

  • a legally adopted child; or

  • a person whom you have demonstrated a settled intention to treat as a child of your family (except under an arrangement where the child is placed for valuable consideration in a foster home by a person having lawful custody).

At the time of your death:

  • the eligible child must be dependent on you for support and also must be:

  • 18 years or younger in the year of your death;

  • under age 25 and a full-time student; or

  • totally disabled.

Bridge Benefit - If your pension starts before age 65, you may be entitled to the OMERS bridge benefit. This temporary benefit helps “bridge” your OMERS pension until age 65, when your Canada Pension Plan (CPP) pension is expected to begin.

Beneficiary - For OMERS, your designated beneficiary is the person you designate by completing Form 206 - Beneficiary Designation

Post-retirement-date - If you enter into a spousal relationship after retirement, and there is no person who qualifies as your retirement-date spouse, OMERS considers the surviving legal spouse or common-law spouse at the date of your death to be the eligible spouse for the purpose of spousal survivor benefits, provided you were not “living separate and apart” (see previous page) and he or she has not waived rights to survivor benefits.

Commuted Value - The commuted value is the estimated amount of money you would have to invest today to provide you with a future benefit similar to the OMERS Plan pension you’ve earned.

Pre-retirement spouse - If you die before your pension start date, your pre-retirement spouse is your legal spouse or common-law spouse on the date of your death (before retirement) provided you were not “living separate and apart” on the date of your death and he or she has not waived rights to survivor benefits.


Supporting Documents Required

When applying for an OMERS survivor benefit, supporting documents and forms are needed to process the claim. Unless otherwise stated, we do not need certified or notarized copies of documents.


Proof of the member's death

We will accept legible photocopies of the following documents as proof of the member's death, in order of preference:

  • provincial death certificate (or equivalent);

  • funeral director's statement of death; or

  • certificate of appointment of estate trustee with or without a will.


Proof of legal marriage

OMERS will accept a legible photocopy of one of the following documents as valid evidence of a legal marriage:

  • a marriage certificate; or

  • a statutory declaration (or a signed letter from the place of worship where the marriage took place); or

  • a sworn affidavit.


Proof of common-law relationship: supporting documents

OMERS requires that you submit supporting documents with the statutory declaration that help to prove the common-law relationship continued for at least three consecutive years (or for a shorter time if there are natural or adopted children of the relationship).

If the member’s death occurred before retirement**: Provide proof that you were living as a common-law couple for each of the three consecutive years up to the member’s date of death.

If the member’s death occurred after retirement**: Provide proof that you were living as a common-law couple for each of the three consecutive years up to the member’s date of retirement.** Or, if there was no spouse at the member’s date of retirement, provide proof that you were living as a common-law couple for each of the three consecutive years up to the member’s date of death. If the member had a spouse other than you at their date of retirement, please contact OMERS Member Services.

**“Retirement” is the pension start date, i.e., the date that the payment of the first instalment of the member’s pension is due according to the terms of the OMERS Primary Pension Plan.

While each situation is unique, there are generally three types of documents that your common-law spouse will need to provide to OMERS when submitting a claim for survivor benefits – at least one from each category below. More information may be required depending on the circumstances.


1. OMERS Statutory Declaration of Common-law Relationship (Form 159)

OMERS Statutory Declaration of Common-law Relationship must be completed by your common-law spouse.         


2. Residency Documents – at least one of the following documents for each year requested:

  • Bank statement from an active joint account

  • Joint lease, mortgage or home purchase/ownership agreement for shared residence

  • Property tax statement in both names for shared residence

  • Insurance policies in both names, or in each name for the same address (life, home, car)

  • Investment statements in both names, or in each name for the same address (RRSP, TFSA)

  • Household bills (hydro, water, gas, cable, etc.) in both names, or in each name for the same address 

Example: If you died on June 30, 2017, to help prove that your common-law spouse was living with you for three consecutive years, they would have to provide proof of your common-law relationship for the period of June 2014 to June 2017.


3. General Documents – at least one of the following documents for each year requested, or covering the whole period:

  • Affidavits and/or letters confirming the common-law relationship and the applicable dates, from your family, friends, and professional advisers (lawyer, doctor, etc.)

  • Your last will and testament naming the spouse as your spouse or beneficiary

  • Income tax returns naming each other as spouses

  • Newspaper/social announcements naming you and your spouse

  • Cemetery/funeral home invoice paid by your spouse

  • Published death notice naming you and your spouse

  • Health benefits statement for spousal claims or naming your spouse (e.g., employer benefits)

  • Other documents that can help verify that the relationship was spousal


Proof of eligibility for child's benefit

The person who has legal custody of the deceased member's eligible children, and is applying for a child's benefit on their behalf, must submit the child's:

  • birth certificate, or

  • adoption papers, or

  • guardianship papers and a letter stating that the child was a dependent of the member.

If the spouse does not have custody of the eligible child, please provide the name and address of the person who does have custody, or the name and address of the child. 

If the deceased member's child is between 18 and 25, and a full-time student, they must submit a Form 155 - Declaration of full-time attendance at an educational institute on an annual basis. 

If the deceased member's child is over 18 and isOMERS needs written confirmation of the child's disability from a legally qualified medical practitioner (such as a Form 141 - Certificate of child's total disability.)


Proof of age

OMERS needs proof of age for a member who dies before retirement, and for any eligible children. A document submitted as proof of age must include the date of birth.

We will accept a legible photocopy of one of the following documents:

  • birth certificate

  • baptismal papers

  • adoption papers

  • Canadian registration of birth

  • Canadian passport

  • Canadian citizenship papers

  • Certificate of Indian Status (status card)

  • Canadian driver's licence

If none of the above documents are available, we need legible photocopies of two of the following documents:

  • marriage records

  • school records

  • military records

  • foreign passport

  • Age of Majority card

  • statutory declaration

  • Canadian immigration papers


Plan and protect your loved ones

When an OMERS member dies, survivor benefits are payable based on an order of entitlement. A member’s “eligible spouse” is first in line for survivor benefits as long as the couple was not living separate and apart at the relevant date and the spouse did not waive their rights to survivor benefits.

These frequently asked questions provide important information about the eligible spouse definition.

Eligible Spouse FAQ

Who is a “spouse”?

For OMERS purposes, a spouse means either of two people:

  1. who are married to each other; or

  2. are not married to each other and are living together in a conjugal (marriage-like) relationship continuously for at least three years, or in a conjugal (marriage-like) relationship of some permanence if they are the natural or adoptive parents of a child (sometimes referred to as “common-law spouse”).

Is my spouse eligible to receive OMERS survivor benefits?

Pre-retirement death: if a member dies before retirement, the member’s “eligible spouse” is the member’s spouse at the date of death, as long as the member and the spouse were not living separate and apart on the date of death, and the spouse did not waive their rights to survivor benefits.

Post-retirement death: if a member dies after retirement, the member’s “eligible spouse” is the member’s spouse at the date of retirement, as long as the member and the spouse were not living separate and apart at the date of retirement and the spouse did not waive their rights to survivor benefits within the 12-month period before the pension start date using the appropriate waiver form. Even if there is a separation or divorce after the member retires, this spouse would still be the “eligible spouse”.

If a member has no “eligible spouse” as of their retirement date but has a spouse on the date of death, that spouse is the “eligible spouse”, as long as the member and that spouse were not living separate and apart at the date of death and the spouse did not waive their rights to survivor benefits.

Contact OMERS Member Services at 416-369-2444 or 1-800-387-0813. We'll need to know:

  • your name and your OMERS reference number (or social insurance number);

  • the date of death;

  • the date your common-law relationship started (for common-law spouses);

  • your spouse or next of kin’s contact information;

  • if there was a previous spouse;

  • if there are any dependent children.

Contact OMERS immediately so we can begin processing the survivor benefit.

Prior to paying any benefits, we will ask the member’s spouse if they were living separate and apart from the member. If they answer yes, we will follow-up to confirm the details of the living situation.

Sometimes we may be advised by a third party (i.e. relatives, friends or another potential spouse) that a member may have been living separate and apart from his or her spouse. In this situation, we will follow-up with the appropriate parties to gather further information.

Does living separate and apart mean the spouses lived in separate residences?

Not necessarily.

Sometimes spouses can live separately and still be considered “living together” as spouses. For example, if one spouse lives in a nursing home due to deteriorating health while the other spouse lives in the matrimonial home, this can be considered an involuntary separation; as long as the spousal relationship continues, the spouses are considered to be living together.

There are also situations when spouses continue to live together but are considered to be living separate and apart. An example of this is where spouses are living in the same residence out of economic necessity but their spousal relationship has ended. When a spousal relationship has ended, the spouses may be considered to be living separate and apart despite living under the same roof.

How does OMERS determine if spouses were living separate and apart?

Determining if spouses were living separate and apart can be a complex matter and it is necessary to examine all the circumstances objectively. Relationships can be unique, and what was normal for a particular spousal relationship must be considered when determining if there is a departure from the normal state of affairs.

To help make a determination, OMERS looks at the following factors:

Physical separation – did the spouses live in separate residences? If so, are there extenuating circumstances requiring them to live separately (e.g., deteriorating health, work or school demands)? In the absence of extenuating circumstances, it is rare for spouses to choose to live in separate residences over a long period of time unless their spousal relationship has ended.

It is possible for spouses to be considered living separate and apart even if they live in the same residence. Separated spouses may continue to live together to co-parent their children, or out of economic necessity.

Withdrawl – there must be withdrawal by one or both spouses from their matrimonial obligations with the intent of dissolving the matrimonial relationship. Regard must be given to the true intent of a spouse rather than their stated intent.

Sexual relations – the absence of sexual relations is not conclusive but is a considered factor in determining if spouses are living separate and apart.

Family/social/household patterns - are there discussions of family problems and communication between the spouses? Do they attend joint social activities? What are their meal patterns?

Household tasks - have they continued to perform the same household tasks? Consideration is given to the matters which are unique to the relationship of the parties.

When an individual applies for survivor benefits based on their common-law relationship with a deceased member, they must prove that they were in a common-law relationship with the member before they are considered an eligible spouse. OMERS requires sufficient information to make a decision about whether the claimant and the member were in a common-law relationship.

While each situation is unique, there are generally three types of documents that your common-law spouse will need to provide to OMERS when submitting a claim for survivor benefits – at least one from each category below. More information may be required depending on the circumstances.

  1. OMERS Statutory Declaration of Common-law Relationship. This form must be completed by your common-law spouse.

  2. Residency Documents – at least one of the following documents for each year requested:

  • Bank statement from an active joint account

  • Joint lease, mortgage or home purchase/ownership agreement for shared residence

  • Property tax statement in both names for shared residence

  • Insurance policies in both names, or in each name for the same address (life, home, car)

  • Investment statements in both names, or in each name for the same address (RRSP, TFSA)

  • Household bills (hydro, water, gas, cable, etc.) in both names, or in each name for the same address

Example: If you died on June 30, 2017, to help prove that your common-law spouse was living with you for three consecutive years, they would have to provide proof of your common-law relationship for the period of June 2014 to June 2017.

3. General Documents – at least one of the following documents for each year requested, or covering the whole period:

  • Affidavits and/or letters confirming the common-law relationship and the applicable dates, from your family, friends, and professional advisers (lawyer, doctor, etc.)

  • Your last will and testament naming the spouse as your spouse or beneficiary

  • Income tax returns naming each other as spouses

  • Newspaper/social announcements naming you and your spouse

  • Cemetery/funeral home invoice paid by your spouse

  • Published death notice naming you and your spouse

  • Health benefits statement for spousal claims or naming your spouse (e.g., employer benefits)

  • Other documents that can help verify that the relationship was spousal

Sometimes, there is more than one person claiming to be the eligible spouse, or someone disputes the common-law relationship or the common-law spouse does not have the proof that we ask for. In these situations, OMERS may need to ask for more information and will consider the following factors.

  • Shelter – e.g., did you live together?

  • Economic Support – e.g., what were your financial arrangements?

  • Services – e.g., how did you interact with respect to preparing meals, washing clothes, shopping, household maintenance, etc.?

  • Social – e.g., did you participate together or separately in social activities/family events?

  • Societal – e.g., what was the attitude of the community towards you as a couple?

  • Children – e.g., what was the attitude and conduct relating to children?

  • Sexual and personal behaviour – e.g., what were your feelings towards each other, did you have sexual relations, did you eat meals together, did you assist each other in difficult times, did you buy gifts for one another, etc.?

Yes, provided they can show that you were living together in a marriage-like relationship by providing the supporting documents (outlined above). In addition, OMERS will require proof of parentage (e.g., your natural child’s birth certificate or your adoptive child’s adoption papers).