For many people who have lost a loved one and perhaps been named executor of the estate, the process of working through the details of distributing the deceased’s assets can be daunting. For those who expect to benefit from the estate of the deceased, there can sometimes be long waits as the passing of accounts works its way through the checks and balances imposed by the legal system. Unfortunately, people can sometimes find themselves expecting to benefit from a loved one’s estate, only to discover that they are left with nothing. In a story recently reported by the CBC, a Newfoundland and Labrador man found out that he won’t be able to benefit from his deceased partner’s pension.
Same-sex couple of 33 years
The man at the centre of the story is Ken Haire. He was in a long-term common-law relationship with his partner, Gerry Schwarz, for over 33 years until Schwarz’s death. Schwarz had worked for the rail company CN for more than 30 years. He retired in 1991 and the couple moved to Newfoundland so they could be close to Haire’s family.
The couple built a happy life in their new home, with a home on the water and a number of dogs. Haire told the CBC that they assumed Schwarz’s pension would be granted to Haire in the event that Schwarz pre-deceased him. However, when Schwarz died in 2012 due to heart failure, Haire was given bad news.
Partner’s employer did not recognize same-sex relationships
Haire told the CBC that he reached out to CN following Schwarz’s death. After doing so, he was told that while the company was sorry for his loss, their pension and benefits department told him that at the time of Schwarz’s death, the pension’s rules stated that a partner in a common-law relationship had to be a “person of the opposite sex” in order for benefits to be passed along after death.
CN has since updated this rule, but it was not applied retroactively, meaning Schwarz and others in a similar situation may be out of luck.
The company told CBC that it is now considering revisiting some of its policies, but has not stated whether any potential changes will impact people like Schwarz who have already been put at a disadvantage.
Partner plans to fight pension in court
Haire had to take drastic measures when he found out he would be without the income he had been relying on. He told the CBC that he had to sell the home he had Schwarz had lived in as well as giving away their five dogs who he could not take to the apartment he now lives in.
However, this has not stopped Haire from pursuing the pension he believes should be given to him. He has hired a lawyer and plans to challenge CN’s policy in court. The Supreme Court of Canada has already ruled on similar situations involving the Canada Pension Plan, in which it held that benefits from pension plans can be made available to same-sex partners retroactive to 1985 when the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was established.
We will be sure to keep our readers updated as the case progresses through the courts.
Contact Derfel Estate Law to speak with an estates lawyer who will guide you through the process of passing of accounts, ensure that your rights and interests are protected, and work with you to achieve the best possible resolution. Call us at 1-844-2-DERFEL or contact us online to schedule a consultation.