OPTions Summer 2016, Number 63

Image of young couple
Proving your marital status necessary for the spousal survivor benefit

For your common-law spouse to qualify as an eligible spouse for survivor benefits, under the terms of the OPSEU Pension Plan, you must be in a common-law relationship

  • for at least three years, or
  • have a relationship of some permanence and are the natural or adoptive parents of a child.

OPTrust requires three documents to prove either the spousal or the parental relationship. Let’s look at two possible situations:


The situation
Jack and Susan have been in a common-law relationship for over 20 years and their children are adults. Now that Jack, the OPTrust member, is considering retirement, he has been asked to provide documents that prove the existence of the relationship for at least three years.

After reviewing the documents that OPTrust accepts as proof, he was able to quickly provide the three pieces of information. Because he had named Susan as his spouse on the Pension Beneficiaries form just after their relationship started in 1996, he only had two more documents to submit. He and Susan have joint ownership of their home so their deed was the second document. And since they have copies of their income tax returns for past years, he provided a copy of their income tax return from three years ago as the third document.

Does his spouse qualify for survivor benefits?
Yes. Provided they are not living separate and apart when Jack’s pension begins, Susan would receive the spousal survivor benefit, as the couple is able to provide proof that the relationship existed for at least three years.


The situation
Tanya and Jamal started a common-law relationship in 2015 and do not have a child. According to pension plan rules, they do not yet qualify as common-law spouses for the purpose of spousal survivor benefits. If, in the meantime the couple does not have children, this means that if Tanya, the OPTrust member, dies before 2018, Jamal is not entitled to spousal survivor benefits. However, if he is named as a beneficiary, he would get a lump sum payment.

OPTrust recommends that Tanya submit proof of the relationship now and name Jamal as her common-law spouse and as a beneficiary on the Pension Beneficiaries form. She can also complete a Statement of Marital Status form and if they have a joint lease or deed, she can send a copy to OPTrust as proof. If Tanya wants to wait she can send the documents when their relationship reaches the three-year mark. But then she would have to find documents dated back to 2015 to prove the three years.

Does his spouse qualify for survivor benefits?
Not yet. If Tanya were to die today, Jamal would not be recognized as an eligible spouse because their relationship does not meet the minimum three-year common-law requirement. However, if Jamal and Tanya were to become parents before the three-year timeline, Jamal would immediately qualify as an eligible spouse. Tanya would need to submit three documents to prove the parental relationship.


When to send the documents

It’s important to let OPTrust know that you are in a common-law relationship. We suggest that you send us the required documents at the start of your relationship as it may be easier for you to provide proof at the start of the relationship rather than when you reach the three-year mark. If you don’t send the documents and you have told us about your relationship status, we will follow up with you.

End of relationship

As with any spousal relationship, if your common-law relationship ends, please let us know that too. You may want to complete a new Pension Beneficiaries form to revoke your former spouse as a beneficiary, if that is your desired course of action. Any change in marital status could have an impact on your pension. To get more information on this, see our fact sheet Spousal Relationship Breakdown.


OPTrust requires three documents to prove the relationship because:

  • if your spouse qualifies as common-law, the Plan pays for the survivor benefit
  • we have to make sure we’re paying the right person
  • we want to avoid a delay in paying the survivor benefit. We can’t pay it without proof of the relationship.

If you and your spouse are the natural or adoptive parents of a child, you do not need three documents to prove the three-year relationship, but OPTrust will need documents to prove your relationship with the child, for example the child’s birth certificate, baptismal certificate or adoption documents that list you and your spouse as parents of the child.

Acceptable documents to prove common-law relationship

We accept a variety of documents as proof of your common-law status. Some of the more commonly used documents are:

  • a deed or a lease with both your names listed
  • jointly-held liability such as mortgage or bank loan
  • income tax returns, plus other evidence.

To get the full list of acceptable documents, read our information sheet on How to prove your spousal relationship


Question: Could you please provide clarification on how the pension is calculated using the "best average five-year salary". Are these consecutive years? If so, are these five years the last five before retiring or any five years during my entire career?

Your pension is calculated using your best consecutive five-year average (or 60 months) annual salary. When we calculate your pension, we look at your salary rates for your entire career and use the best consecutive 60 months.

Screenshot showing lin to My Pension estimage


You can check the salary rates we use through your Online Services account. Login to Online Services, then on your home page, go to "My Pension Estimates".








Screenshot showing get more details link


On the "My Pension Estimate" page click on the "Get more details link" in the left hand column, under the "Pension is effective as of:" column.






Screenshot showing rates


That will produce a "Pension Estimate Details" statement. Partway down the page, you will see your salary rates listed in the section titled "Average 5-Year Salary."

If you are not registered for Online Services, you’ll need your OPTrust ID to register. For help with registration please contact us at email@optrust.com or 1 800 637-0024.



Alan Hibben was appointed to the OPTrust Board of Trustees by the Government of Ontario in June 2016. He has had a wide-ranging career in financial services with specific experience in merger and acquisition advisory services, private equity and venture capital, trust company management, project and leveraged finance and Eurobond sales and trading.

Currently, he provides financial and strategic advice through his advisory and investment company, Shakerhill Partners Ltd. Mr. Hibben retired in December 2014 as Managing Director in the Mergers and Acquisitions Group of RBC Capital Markets.

Mr. Hibben holds a B.Com. from the University of Toronto and is qualified as a Canadian CPA. He is also a charterholder and an Institute Certified Director (ICD.D) of the Institute of Corporate Directors.


OPSEU appointed Giulia Volpe to the Board of Trustees in June 2016. Ms. Volpe is a Pension Analyst with the Ontario Pension Board (OPB) in Toronto. She has over a decade of experience in public sector pension plan administration primarily providing front line client service to OPB’s members and pensioners.

Ms. Volpe is a strong union activist with considerable labour relations knowledge. She has held the roles of Labour Management Committee Co-Chair and Interim Co-Chair, Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee with OPB. Ms. Volpe was elected in May 2016 to serve as the Vice-President of OPSEU Local 568.

Ms. Volpe holds a General Arts and Science Diploma from Seneca College, a Pension Plan Administration Certificate from Humber College and a Registered Retirement Consultant (RRC®) designation from the Canadian Institute of Financial Planners.


Globe and Mail CentreThe Globe and Mail’s new home, a 17-storey tower at 351 King Street East in Toronto, is set to welcome its first tenants later this year.

The building is a partnership between developer First Gulf and OPTrust, and forms a major part of the neighbourhood’s wider redevelopment. At 500,000 square feet, it will be the largest office development east of Yonge Street.

As a lead tenant, the Globe and Mail will occupy the top five floors. The building is currently targeting the environmentally-friendly LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold standard.


You now have another way to connect with OPTrust and learn more about your pension plan with Twitter. OPTrust recently stepped into the Twitterverse with our new handle @OPTrust.

We will be tweeting insights on retirement security, pension and investment news, and more. If you have a Twitter account follow us, retweet our news and stay connected. While online take a look at our other social media channels together with optrust.com for everything you need to know about OPTrust at your fingertips.


Register for OPTrust’s secure Online Services site to see your personal pension information and to communicate confidentially with OPTrust. From the OPTrust website, click on the green Online Services account button in the top right-hand corner of the page and follow the directions.

You’ll need your OPTrust ID to register. If you need help, please contact us at email@optrust.com or 1 800 637-0024.

Want to know more about the OPSEU Pension Plan?

Are retirement plans in your immediate future? OPTrust information sessions are a great way to learn more about your pension – directly from an OPTrust representative.

Getting ready to retire: evening seminars

Our evening seminars are tailored for members who are within 10 years of retirement, but all members are welcome to attend.


If there isn’t an information session in your vicinity or you can’t attend, view our posted presentation or sign up for a live webinar. They cover the same information as an in-person session and if after viewing it you have questions or need help with your retirement, please contact us.

Register now

View a complete, up-to-date schedule for a session in your area and sign up online or call us at 416 681-6100 or 1 800 637-0024.
Important: Space is limited. Please register at least two weeks in advance.



Board composition - percentage of womenA number of high profile research studies* have confirmed that boards with a higher composition of women performed better than companies with less diversity. In keeping with our commitment to diversity, OPTrust joined fellow business leaders in the 30% Club Canada, a campaign to increase the gender balance on boards and C suites (an organization’s most senior executives). The campaign aspires to reach the goal of 30% women on boards by 2019 and stronger representation in C suites.

OPTrust will continue to champion diversity internally as well as promote the value of diversity at our investee companies, in discussions with senior management and directors of boards, and when voting proxies.


Whether you’re thinking about retiring or have already made the decision, OPTrust’s new retirement package web page offers a handy reference for all the documents you’ll need to submit to OPTrust.

Visit the Member section on the website to see the list.


When using secure banking or other sites where you sign in (provide a username and password), do you remember to “log out”? Many of us just click on the X and think we have logged out. On most sites, you haven’t really logged out. You have just closed the page and your account is still active.

To ensure your security is further protected, OPTrust has added a reminder message if you have been on the secure Online Services site for five minutes and not submitted anything. The message appears at the four minute mark and offers you the choice to keep the site open and continue your session, or to cancel your session.

If your visit on the Online Services site is less than five minutes, remember to use the log out button, located at the top of the web page. It’s a good practice on any secure website.


If you’re retiring, remember to let OPTrust know how to reach you at home – by providing both a personal email address and mailing address. Whether you have left the workplace or will be leaving in a few months, make sure you tell us how to reach you.

Once we receive your retirement notice, we will tell you what other documents we need from you. We will correspond with you in whichever way you prefer – email or mail. As you become a retiree, it’s best to keep both contact points current.

For example, OPTrust mails T4A income tax information slips to all retirees in February, but if we have your email address, we’ll let you know when they’re posted to retiree personal accounts in Online Services in January. If you plan to file your taxes early, you may find it helpful to receive this email notice that your T4A is ready.