Wills and Estates

When a Loved One Dies in an Indigenous Community


Dealing with the loss of a loved one, organizing the funeral and settling the estate can be difficult for the family. This article explains the first steps to take after an Indigenous person who lived in a community (“reserve”) dies. 

Important: The Indian Registration Administrator in your community can advise and guide you on the steps to take. Ask your Band Council for the administrator’s contact information.

1. Notify the government 

Begin by notifying these government bodies: 

Directeur de l’état civil du Québec (registrar of civil status) 

  • After you’ve notified the Directeur, you will receive an act of death for the person. This is an official document that proves the person died. You’ll need it to settle the estate (for example, close bank accounts). 
  • The funeral home can help you send the necessary documents to the Directeur de l’état civil. 

Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) 

  • Your community’s Indian Registration Administrator can call ISC for you. 
  • Or you can call ISC directly at 1-800-263-5592.  

Once you’ve notified ISC, you’ll receive forms to complete and return with other documents. 

2. Look for a will  

Check for a will in the registers of the Chambre des notaires (association of notaries) and the Barreau du Québec (association of lawyers). The fee is about $20 for each register.  

If a will was registered, you’ll receive a certificate that gives the name and contact information of the notary or lawyer who prepared it so you can ask for a copy.  

Next, look through the person’s papers for a will prepared without the help of a lawyer or notary. This type of will usually isn’t registered. You can also ask family members and close friends if they know whether there’s a will.   

Tell ISC whether you found a will. If you have, send it to them for approval.

3. Plan the funeral   

The service must respect the wishes of the person who died, for example, burial or cremation, and the type of service. 

To find out the person’s wishes about the funeral, you can 

  • talk to family members and close friends,  
  • check the will (if there is one) and 
  • look through the person’s papers for a contract for funeral services arranged in advance.  

A registry for pre-arranged funeral contrats

In 2021, a new registry for funeral prearrangements and for prepurchased sepulture contracts was created. Before entering into any contract, a company offering funeral services must check this registry to see whether a contract dealing with the same person or services was already created.

If the person didn’t mention anything about the service, the heirs decide what to do. 

The Quebec Pension Plan might pay some funeral costs if the person who died contributed a minimum amount to the plan. If not, the Ministère du Travail, de l’Emploi et de la Solidarité sociale (department of employment and social solidarity) might give a special refund. 

4. Find out who will settle the estate  

Once ISC has all the necessary documents, it will name someone to take care of the estate.  

ISC asks for recommendations from family members or heirs in these cases: 

The person ISC names will be responsible for managing the estate and distributing the property.