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Quebec lifts freeze on joint bank accounts between spouses in case of death

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There will no longer be a freeze on couples’ joint bank accounts in the event of a partner’s death, the Quebec government announced Wednesday.

The new law aims to make it easier for co-holders of a shared bank account to access their share of the balance if their spouse or ex-spouse dies.

Up until now, financial institutions in Quebec froze bank accounts until the deceased’s estate was settled. A succession can sometimes take a few weeks or even months — and, as a result, the lengthy process could leave the other co-holder in a precarious financial situation.

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Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette described it as an “important step forward that will make a real difference in the lives of many families.”

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“The death of a spouse is always a difficult situation and we want the family to be able to grieve without worrying if they will be able to pay their bills,” he said in a statement.

Under the new law, financial institutions must give the surviving spouse access to their share of the bank account’s balance. In the event of a death, the balance will then be divided in equal parts. This means the living co-owner can access up to 50 per cent of the account’s balance, unless another arrangement was made with the bank beforehand.

The new law applies to both new and existing joint accounts and Quebec’s consumer protection office is in charge of applying it.

with files from The Canadian Press

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