Wills and Estates

Rights of a Spouse or Partner to the Home and Land After a Death


The spouse or partner of an Indigenous person who died has special rights to the family home and land in the community (“reserve”).  


If your community has special rules about the family home and property, the rules explained in this article don’t apply to you. Very few communities in Quebec have their own rules, so check with youcommunity’s Band Council. 

The rights described in this article are the same for 

  • married spouses and  
  • commonlaw partners living together for at least a year at the time of deathCommon-law means making a life together without being married.  

Right to Live in the Family Home Temporarily 

After your spouse or partner dies, you can stay for at least six months in the home where you lived together, even in these situations:   

  • You didn’t inherit the house from your spouse.  
  • You aren’t a band member. 
  • You aren’t an Indigenous person.  
  • Your spouse or partner had a traditional right to the house instead of a Certificate of Possession. 

In some situations, you can ask the court to let you stay in the house for an extra six months. A lawyer can help you with this. 

Your spouse or partner occupied the family home or land based on a traditional system. 

Contact your Band Council to find out who will inherit the home or land. 

Your spouse or partner had a Certificate of Possession.   

You have two choices. A lawyer can help you decide what’s best in your situation. 

Option 1:  

  • You inherit what your spouse or partner left to you under a will. 


Important: If you aren’t a band member, you can’t inherit the house or land directly, even if it was left to you under a will. But the house can be sold, and you get the money from the sale.  

Option 2: 

You receive half the value of the family home. In some situations, you can also get part of the value of other land your spouse or partner had in the community.  

You still have a right to what the will or the Indian Act or says about other property your spouse or partner had, such as money in the bank or a car. 

This option might work for you if, for example, your spouse or partner didn’t leave you the house under the will. 

If you choose option 1, you don’t have to ask the court for anything. Just write to the person taking care of the estate so that your spouse’s property can be distributed. Without this written notice, you and the other heirs will have to wait at least 10 months before receiving anything. 

If you choose option 2, you must make a claim in court within 10 months after the death. You must send a copy of your claim to Indigenous Services Canada and to the person taking care of the estate (if you aren’t the one managing it). A lawyer can help you with these steps.  

To learn more about your rights after the death of your spouse or common-law partner, contact the Centre of Excellence for Matrimonial Real Property at 1-855-657-9992 or visit their website