Estate planning for 2SLGBTQIA+

What you need to know to protect your financial future

It’s been almost 20 years since Canada enacted the Civil Marriage Act, becoming the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. But despite marriage equality, the same can’t always be said for legal equality – particularly when it comes to making decisions about how your estate will be transferred. Even if you are single, having a well-thought-out plan is critical to protect your assets.

Unique issues for the 2SLGBTQIA+ community

Estate planning is important for everyone, but it’s particularly crucial if you’re a member of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community for a few reasons.

Family structures: Members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community are typically less likely to be married or have children where only one partner is the biological parent.

Family disputes: For some members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, discrimination and lack of support from family members could mean decisions about asset planning may be challenged through court intervention.

Gender issues: Transgender individuals should have an updated estate plan that affirms their name and gender.

Your relationship status matters (especially in Quebec)

By the numbers

Approximately 1,000,000 Canadians are part of 2SLGBTQIA+ communities [1]

1/3 of same-sex couples are married

2/3 of same-sex couples are living common law

While common-law couples are treated equally to legally married couples from a tax perspective in Canada, when it comes to family and estate law there are significant differences depending on which province you live in, starting with the interpretation of ‘common law’.

Across the country, the definition ranges from two to three years of cohabitation – or less if a couple is the parents of a child. And in Quebec, common law couples are called ‘de facto’ couples. In this province it’s even more important to create a will that outlines how your assets will be distributed, because unless you are legally married, your spouse will not be entitled to any of your assets when you die if you don’t have a valid will.

Guardianship of children must be in writing

If you are a same-sex couple who has adopted a child together, you have the same legal rights as a traditional couple would. However if you are the biological parent and you have not formalized an adoption involving the other parent, or named your partner as a guardian in your will, your partner could face a custody dispute upon your death. In this case, the guardianship decision will be left up to the courts. 

Estate planning isn’t just for couples

Even if you don’t have a partner, children or pets, you may have people or charities you’d like to leave your assets to. Without a will, the provincial courts will decide how your estate is divided. Don’t leave it up to chance – outline your wishes in a will.

We can help

Choose an advisor who understands the issues and nuances members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community may face when it comes to estate planning.

[1] 2SLGBTQIA+ communities in Canada: A demographic snapshot (

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