First Steps After a Loved One Passes

Losing a loved one is a horrible experience and grief can be compounded by the uncertainty of what needs to be done to ensure the loved one’s estate gets dealt with appropriately, particularly in the first few months after the death. Below is a list of items that should be done in this timeframe. This list can be provided to clients to help them and their loved ones through those first awful months by eliminating or reducing the uncertainty. Also included are two checklists- one outlining the items below in point form and one outlining the information needed to begin a probate application.



Likely the first item you need to do is to obtain a death certificate. Any joint assets or assets with specified beneficiary designations attached will require a death certificate in order to remove the deceased’s name from title. You will need to obtain the certificate in the jurisdiction where the death took place. In Alberta, you can go to and complete the Application for Ordering Death and Legal Change of Name Documents. This then needs to be dropped off to a registry agent with a government issued form of id. Outside of Alberta, you need to complete the Registry Connect Application for Certificate/Documents and then see a Notary Public to complete the Statutory Declaration of Proof of Identity part of that Application. Your completed application is to be mailed to Registry Connect at Suite 202, 1003 Ellwood Road, SW Edmonton, AB T6X 0B3.

Many of the programs run by the government need to be notified within a certain time frame of the date of death. While the estate is entitled to Old Age Security (OAS) and Canada Pension Plan (CPP) payments for the month of death, Service Canada needs each to be cancelled within 30 days to avoid a clawback[1]. You can cancel OAS and CPP by contacting Service Canada with the full name, date of birth, date of death, social insurance number, previous address and name and address of the person responsible for handling the deceased’s affairs (if known) at any Service Canada office or it can be done by mail. If the death occurred in Canada you do not need to prove the date of death, but if the death occurred outside of Canada you will need proof of death such as: official death certificate issued under the authority of government where the death occurred, death certificate issued by a court, funeral home or medical practitioner, or a statement by a doctor last in attendance with appropriate identifying letterhead.

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When a person dies, employment insurance (EI) benefits payable to that person up to and including the date of death may be paid to the estate. However, these benefits must also be cancelled by completing a Request for Payment of Benefit on Behalf of a Deceased Person found at

Any EI benefits paid after the death must be repaid. It should also be noted that an estate can apply for EI benefits on behalf of a deceased person, particularly if that deceased person had not been able to work in the weeks leading to his or her death.

For most other CRA notifications, such as GST, Canada Child Tax Benefit, etc. you can complete an Information Sheet RC4111 and send it to your tax services office or tax centre. RC4111 is found at CRA will also require a certified copy of the death certificate. If the deceased was resident in Vancouver the documents should be sent to 9755 King George Boulevard, Surrey BC V3T 5E1 and if the deceased was resident in Calgary, the documents should be sent to 220 4th Avenue SE, Calgary, AB T2G 0L1. For all other cities, the addresses can be found at

Personal Bank Accounts

Most banks will require a certified copy of the death certificate to remove a deceased person’s name from a joint account or to transfer accounts to an account registered in the estate’s name. Some banks will simply freeze the accounts until a grant of probate is obtained. Most banks are also fairly accommodating in suspending mortgage payments or line of credit payments that are due for a few months following death. National Bank offers asset repatriation free of charge if a client wishes to consolidate all the deceased’s assets into a single account. Further, for National Bank Private Banking 1859 clients, the designated private banker can arrange the paperwork to effect the transfers.

Land Titles

If land is held as joint tenants with another person, then all the Land Titles Office needs is a notarized copy of the death certificate to remove the deceased’s name from title. This is not a step that needs to be done right away, but can be tackled when people are more prepared to deal with estate matters.

If land is held by the deceased personally, land titles needs a notarized copy of the death certificate in order to transfer title into the name of the estate, and then a certified copy of the grant of probate to transfer the asset into the name of the beneficiaries.

Probate Wills

Insurance Companies

It is important to know who is named as beneficiary on the life insurance policies held by a person at his or her death. Every company is a little bit different, so the beneficiary should contact the insurance company’s local agent or check the company’s website. You can also notify the company in writing, requesting the forms and instructions on how to proceed. A certified copy of the death certificate will likely be needed. This is the same for annuities.

Tax Returns

Fortunately people have some breathing room with regard to tax returns. If a death occurred between January 1st and October 31st, the personal representative has until April 30th of the following year to file the final tax return. If the death occurred between November 1st and December 31st, the final tax return is due six months after the date of death. This final tax return will show any capital gains owed on the deemed disposition of all assets that occurs at death.

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First Steps After a Loved One Passes