Planning for Loved Ones: Information for Common-Law Couples

Survivor benefits are a key feature of the OMERS pension plan.

A common-law spouse, a legally married spouse, children or your designated beneficiary can be entitled to survivor benefits from OMERS, depending on the circumstances. The person who receives your OMERS survivor benefit is set out in the law and in the OMERS Plan, and it is important that you understand these rules and look after your estate planning, so that your loved ones are financially protected.

It’s also important to know that a common-law spouse submitting a claim  for an OMERS survivor benefit will need to provide proof of the common-law relationship. Planning ahead and knowing where and how to find the required documents will help to ensure that your eligible common-law spouse receives their benefit in a timely manner.

To prove the common-law relationship continued for at least three consecutive years immediately prior to the member’s death, or for a shorter time if there are natural or adopted children of the relationship, your spouse will need to provide documents in all three categories below. (More information may be required depending on the circumstances.)

1. OMERS Statutory Declaration of Common-law Relationship (Form 159), which is available on www.omers.com.

2. Primary documents  –  at least one of the following for each of the three continuous years:

  • Joint bank statement
  • Joint lease, mortgage or home-purchase/ownership agreement for shared residence
  • Property tax statement in both names for shared residence
  • Your last will and testament that names your partner as your common-law spouse or beneficiary
  • Insurance policies demonstrating your spousal relationship and shared residence
  • Household bills (hydro, water, etc.) in both names, or in each name for shared residence

3. Secondary Documents – at least one of the following:

  • Affidavits and/or letters confirming the common-law relationship, including dates, from your family, friends, and professional advisers (lawyer, doctor, etc.)
  • 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 (e.g., employer benefits) showing joint coverage.

Sometimes, more than one person claims to be the eligible spouse, or someone disputes the common-law relationship, or the common-law spouse does not have the required proof. In these situations, OMERS may 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 toward you as a couple?
  • Children – e.g., what was the attitude and conduct relating to children?
  • Personal behaviour e.g., what were your feelings toward 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.?

Visit www.omers.com for information on eligibility for OMERS survivor benefits and answers to questions frequently asked by common-law spouses.  Select Members then Life and Career Events then Planning for Loved Ones.

Don’t miss out on important information about your pension. Signing up for e-subscription on myOMERS.com ensures you will receive important information in a fast, cost-effective and environmentally friendly way. Visit myOMERS to activate your personal account and explore all your pension details

Image Intro