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Estate Apostille Authentication Legalization Canada – The Why & How To

If you have a family member who has passed away in Canada or outside Canada and has left you an inheritance overseas or you are the appointed Trustee, you will probably be asked to provide some documentation. The exact documents you need vary depending on the country and the type of inheritance so your legal professional will be the best one to advise you on this. Typically, you will be required to provide a Death Certificate, a Will, and any other documents which prove the death of the individual and note your status as the inheritor (Affidavit, Power of Attorney, etc.). Once you have the necessary documentation, it is not as easy as simply taking those documents to the foreign country. This is because there is no way of knowing whether the Death Certificate, Will, Affidavit, or Power of Attorney made in Canada is real or not. Due to these concerns, multiple processes were developed to verify documents issued in foreign countries.

The most common process used is called the Apostille, and you may have been told to have your Canadian documents apostilled for inheritance purposes. However, Canada does not use the apostille because it did not sign the Hague Apostille convention. Instead, Canada uses what can be simply described as an “older version” of the apostille process, a two step process called authentication and legalization. This two step process is legally equivalent to the apostille and involves two stamps: a stamp from Global Affairs Canada which validates the authenticity of the document, and a stamp from the embassy of the country wherein the document will be used, which makes it legally valid for use in that country (hence the terms authentication and legalization).

If you have Canadian documents you need to use overseas for inheritance purposes, you will need to go through this two step process. Unfortunately, this two step process can be incredibly complicated due to changing requirements and fees. It can also take up to two months to process your Canadian documents for inheritance purposes. This is why we started providing this service 30 years ago. Our head office located in Ottawa has a strong professional relationship with over 100 embassies as well as Global Affairs Canada. This allows us to be up to date on all changing requirements and fees, and gives us the ability to get you started to save you valuable processing time. Our experts are here to help you. 

Certifying Canadian Will & Death Certificate for a Foreign Country 

If a family member passes away in Canada, a death certificate will be issued by the province wherein the death occurred. In some cases, the funeral home or hospital may also issue a similar document. To be clear, only the death certificate is valid for processing and it is processed as an original. Death certificates issued by the funeral home are not valid for processing, even if they are notarized. There are in fact some rare instances where additional supporting documentation is requested from the hospital or from the doctor who was present at the time of passing, but this is very uncommon and this document should never be given in lieu of a death certificate. Any document issued by the hospital or a health practitioner will need to be made into a notarized copy to be valid for processing.

If you are having trouble finding the death certificate, it is easy to order a new one from the provincial vital statistics office. This can be done online and many vital statistics offices offer expedited services if you are in a rush. If you are currently outside of Canada you can have the death certificate ordered to our office to save processing time once you have confirmed use of our services. Many of our clients choose to do this, and we strongly recommend you do the same. However, make sure you contact us before sending anything to our office.  

Will Authentication Legalization for Estate Purposes 

Another Canadian document that is commonly requested in relation to inheritance purposes overseas is a notarized Will, notarized Affidavit, or notarized Power of Attorney. Most Wills are drafted and notarized prior to passing. In cases where the Will has not been notarized in advance, only a notarized copy of the Will can be processed. Note that you should check with the requesting party if a notarized copy of the Will is sufficient. In many cases it is ideal to process a notarized copy of the original Will, even if the original Will has already been notarized. This is because the original document is only issued once, and any document which is difficult or impossible to reissue should always be kept in a secure location and never processed as an original unless it is absolutely necessary. Affidavits and Power of Attorney are also commonly requested in relation to inheritance purposes overseas, either to provide further identification of yourself as the claimant or to give authority to a third party or family member overseas to handle the inheritance process on your behalf.

This is a common occurrence and in these cases it is important to confirm whether the Affidavit or Power of Attorney can be authenticated and legalized (apostilled) in English or if it needs to be in the language of the destination country. Due to conflicting translation standards, we strongly recommend having your documents processed in Canada in English or French and then translated into the national language of the destination country once it has arrived there. This minimizes the chances of any issues or discrepancies due to the translations. As a rule of thumb, all Affidavits, Powers of Attorney, statements, and similar documents simply need to be signed in front of a Canadian lawyer/notary to be valid for authentication at Global Affairs Canada and legalization at the appropriate embassy. If you must have this document drafted in Canada in a language other than English or French, note there will be additional requirements for the authentication and legalization process.  

These documents can be a bit trickier to process, and if you’re having trouble figuring out what to do, save time and money by consulting with our experts instead. That said please remember that ALSC does not provide legal advice and cannot counsel you on what is required your Lawyer will be best to help you through the inheritance process. Our part starts after you have received the proper direction from your legal professional so we are ready when you are.

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