Updated: Dec 29, 2021
Over the last 15 years, Canada has made great strides in passing legislation protecting LGBTQ+ rights. Despite this progress, there is still prejudice and discrimination against LGBTQ+ Canadians. You probably won't be surprised to hear that LGBTQ+ individuals and families can face unique barriers when it comes to estate planning.
Let's take a look at some of those challenges and explore what you can do to ensure that your estate plan protects the people you care about.
Society as a whole is still a heteronormative and cisnormative place to live. In other words, most people’s default assumption is typically that everyone they meet is straight and cisgender.
Assumptions like these are present at every stage of life. In episode 109 of the podcast Homo Sapiens, “where queer people talk about life,” a listener wrote into the show and talked about his experience after his husband passed away. When he called the bank to remove his husband’s name from their accounts, they were referred to Mr and Mrs multiple times.
LGBTQ+ legal protection outside of Canada
Other countries around the world don’t have the same legal protections for LGBTQ+ individuals and couples. Should you decide to move outside of Canada, it’s important to speak to a lawyer to ensure your partner or spouse is taken care of, in case something were to happen to you. This is especially important if that country doesn’t legally recognize your marriage or gender.
LGBTQ+ family planning
If you’re planning to expand your family, it’s important to ensure that your children are taken care of should something happen to you. This is especially important if only one parent is the biological parent. Without a will in place that specifically states your wishes, it may be left to the courts to decide who will be your child’s guardian.
This may not cause significant problems for everyone—but if you have a disapproving family, it could lead to an ugly legal battle. Worse yet, your children may end up living with family members you don’t have a relationship or feel safe with.
LGBTQ+ end-of-life planning
When it comes to the end-of-life aspect of estate planning, it’s important to have people legally appointed who will affirm and respect you. You should never be deadnamed or misgendered—and that includes after you’ve passed away. A funeral, obituary, and gravestone are all part of how you’re remembered and should fully reflect and celebrate the life you lived.
This can be done by:
Writing a will and naming an executor
Appointing a power of attorney
Writing a health care directive and assigning a proxy who can make decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to communicate your wishes
Two questions to ask when selecting an executor, power of attorney and proxy are:
Who takes care of me today, whether it’s emotionally, physically or spiritually?
Who do I trust to take care of me in the future?
Keep in mind that every province and territory has different names and signing requirements for these documents.
It’s important to note that many LGBTQ+ Canadians, especially trans individuals, often struggle to find housing and employment, which can affect their ability to earn a living wage. One Ontario-based study found that half of trans people were living on less than $15,000 a year. This can make it difficult for some folks to afford the legal costs involved with setting up the aforementioned documents. Many LGBTQ+ centers like The 519 in Toronto will be able to connect you with legal assistance if you’re unable to afford it.
Even though LGBTQ+ couples can get married in Canada, many choose not to. In fact, according to the 2016 Canadian Census, two-thirds of same-sex couples in Canada weren’t married.
It’s worth mentioning that in Québec common-law partners are not considered each other’s legal inheritors unless specified. This means if one partner dies without a will, the surviving partner may not inherit any of their partner’s estate.
Whatever you decide, it’s important to have the aforementioned legal documents in place to ensure your partner is taken care of after you’re gone. These documents also ensure that they’re able to make medical decisions on your behalf, should something happen to you.
Legal documents can only protect you if they can be found
Whether it’s your partner or a chosen family member taking care of you and your legacy, they need to know where to find the legal documents you’ve carefully prepared to ensure that your wishes are fulfilled.
A shoebox stuffed with documents under the bed doesn’t cut it anymore. Part of creating a comprehensive estate plan is ensuring that your chosen family or partner can easily locate your important documents—after all, legal documents can only protect you if they can be found.
Uploading these documents to a safe and secure platform like EstateBox and recording where the physical copies are located are easy and efficient ways to ensure they’ll never get misplaced.
EstateBox was created to be inclusive and welcoming to all, with a workflow that is customized for every life. Sign up today for peace of mind now and peace of mind later.
While we’re passionate about all things estate planning, we’re not professionals. We recommend speaking with your lawyer or financial advisor when putting together an estate plan.