Did you know that in Quebec, when a person dies, there are documents that must be filled out? They include a form called a declaration of death, which must be written by a spouse, relative or someone who can identify the deceased.
What is an act of death?
An act of death is a document confirming someone's death. In Quebec, a government agency called the Directeur de l'état civil (registrar of civil status) draws up the act of death.
Like acts of birth, marriage, and civil union, acts of death are entered in a register kept by the Directeur. This register is a big database that has essential information about every Quebec resident.
What is an attestation of death?
An attestation of death is an official confirmation of the death of a person. It is written up by a doctor.
If no doctor is available to write up an attestation of death within a reasonable timeframe and it is evident that the person is dead, the attestation can be done by two police officers.
What information is in an attestation of death?
An attestation of death has this information:
- the name and sex of the person who died
- the place, date, and time of death
- a code written in by the doctor who certified the death
- the name, position, address, signature of the person who drew up the attestation and date it was written up
- the license number of the doctor who drew up the attestation
If the time of death is uncertain, the Directeur de l'état civil will decide on one based on a report of a coroner. If the place of death is unknown, the location where the body was found will be indicated on the attestation of death.
Once the doctor has drawn up the attestation of death, she gives a copy to the person responsible for declaring the death - the deceased's spouse or another family member. Another copy of the attestation of death must be sent right away to the Directeur de l'état civil, either by the doctor or the funeral director who takes charge of the body.
What is a declaration of death?
A declaration of death is a document written by the deceased's spouse, a close relative of the deceased, or if these people are unavailable or do not exist, by a person who can identify the deceased.
What information is in a declaration of death?
A declaration of death has information regarding the place, date, and time of death, the identity of the deceased, the identity of the deceased's spouse and how the body is dealt with.
A declaration of death includes this information:
- the name and sex of the deceased
- the place and date of the deceased's birth, marriage or civil union, if applicable
- the place of registration of the deceased's birth
- the deceased's last place of residence
- the place, date, and time of death as determined by the physician and mentioned in the attestation of death
- the name, status, address, signature, and date of signature of the person who drew up the declaration
- the time, place, and method of disposal of the deceased's body
- the names of the deceased's mother and father and, if applicable, the deceased's spouse
The person drawing up the declaration must sign it. In practice, the declaration of death is drawn up with the help of a funeral director, who sends it to the Directeur de l'état civil.
What happens when the person who died cannot be identified?
When the dead person cannot be identified, the person who certifies the death must provide a description of the body and circumstances surrounding its discovery.
It is then up to the coroner to identify the body and to shed light on the circumstances surrounding the death. The registrar of civil status will produce a declaration of death based on the coroner's report and then use the declaration to draw up the act of death.
What happens when a person disappears?
A missing person is presumed alive for seven years following the date of disappearance. During this time, someone can be named to watch over the missing person's property and affairs. After the end of the seven-year period, a court can make a decision declaring the person dead.
The death can be declared before the end of this period if the circumstances indicate that the person who disappeared is definitely dead, even if there is no confirmation of the place, date or time of death. (For example, the Directeur de l'état civil can create an act of death for a person who disappeared when a court has found someone guilty of causing the death of the person. This act of death has the same effect as a court decision declaring the person dead.)
What is a declaratory judgment of death?
When a person has been missing for seven years, a court can make a declaratory judgment of death upon the request of anyone with a sufficient connection to the situation. A declaratory judgment can also be made before the seven-year period ends when the death can be considered certain, even though it is not possible to draw up an attestation of death.
The Directeur de l'état civil draws up the act of death according to the information in the declaratory judgment. The death must also be indicated on the act of birth, the act of marriage, and the act of civil union, as the case may be.
Does a declaration of death need to be completed when a Quebec resident dies outside of Quebec?
No. For a death outside of Quebec to be entered in the register of civil status of Quebec, an Application for Insertion of an Act of Civil Status Made Outside Québec into the Québec Register of Civil Status must be completed and accompanied by the original death certificate issued by the province, state, or country where the death occurred.
What is the purpose of a death certificate?
A death certificate does these things:
- legally establishes a person's death
- lets the estate of the dead person be settled
- ends various benefits and government programs such as health insurance, automobile insurance, pensions, and social assistance
- sets the date from which the surviving spouse is entitled to receive benefits, notably the Quebec pension plan
How can I get a death certificate or a copy of a death certificate?
To get a death certificate or a copy of the certificate, you must contact the Directeur de l'état civil. You can send a request by mail, fax, the Internet or by going directly to one of the offices of the registrar. The form you need - a Request for Certificate - is on the Directeur's website.
The Directeur can issue the following documents:
- a copy of an act of death
The copy of the act of death is a reproduction of the statements in the act, including any changes that may have been made. It can only be given to the people mentioned in the act and other people who have a good reason to have one. For example, a notary in charge of the dead person's estate might be able to get a copy of the act.
- a death certificate
A death certificate has the important information concerning a death. It can only be given to people mentioned in the act of death or to people with a good reason to have one.
- an attestation of death
An attestation states whether there is an act of death or a mention related to a death in the registrar of civil status. Depending on the information in the attestation, anyone can get a copy or only people who have a good reason to have one.
For information on the cost of these documents, see the website of the Directeur de l'état civil.
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.