Back from the Dead
A recent article in the Chronicle Herald tells the story of a couple in Halifax who received a letter from the Canada Revenue Agency regarding Old Age Security benefits. The letter was addressed to the Estate of Anna Zahorski, and indicated that her benefits would be coming to an end since she had passed away. This was surprising and unfortunate news, especially for Anna Zahorski. Who wouldn’t be alarmed to receive notice of their own death from the CRA?
The article goes on to detail the struggle faced by the Zahorskis in trying to remedy this administrative error. One of the steps taken was to attend with Anna at a Service Canada location to prove that she was in fact alive.
In Ontario, legislation allows a court to declare a person to be dead when they have disappeared in circumstances of peril, or when they have been missing for at least seven years. The Declarations of Death Act, 2002 provides that an interested person can apply, on notice to any other interested persons, for an order declaring that an individual has died.
Ontario’s Act makes provision for a scenario where a person who was previously declared to be dead under the Act is discovered to be alive. If that happens, Ontario’s Act provides that the person’s personal representative should immediately stop taking steps in the administration of that person’s estate. If part of the estate has already been distributed, that distribution is final. The court does have power to order that property be returned to the person if it would be just to do so. Any property belonging to the person that has not been distributed yet is deemed to have been held in trust for them and may be returned as the Court may direct. Nova Scotia’s legislation is a little bit different in some respects.
In any event, it is hoped that resorting to the “found alive” provisions will not be necessary for the Zahorskis, if these provisions are even applicable. While the circumstance faced by the Zahorskis must be very frustrating for them, the article hints that they may appreciate the humour in it as well.