May 17, 1916 (12th Parliament, 6th Session)


Robert Laird Borden (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Conservative (1867-1942)


I beg to lay upon the Table a memorandum which has beta* prepared by the Estates Branch of the Department of Militia and Defence with regard to the distribution of the estates of soldiers who have lost their lives while on active service with the Canadian Expeditionary Forces. It was thought that -this information might be of use, and without reading it perhaps I may be permitted to have it incorporated in Hansard. The memorandum is as follows:
On the death of a soldier whilst on m ft lire service in France the casualty is notified, hy cable, to England, and then to Ottawa; his personal effects are collected, placed in a package, and forwarded to the Base. There they *re checked and an inventory is sent with them to-the office of the director of pay and records services (estates branch), London, England, where they are there again checked and rewrapped for distribution!
When there has been very heavy fighting there is little chance of collecting any effects, and in many cases if death has been caused by heavy shell fire there are unfortunately, neither effects nor remains; but. in some cases the London office receives the personal effects-of soldiers dying in territory occupied by the enemy.
If a man has left any personal effects in England before going to the front, these are collected and forwarded to the London office and the whole of his personal effects are thence forwarded to the estates branch, Ottawa, that is, if the beneficiary or next of kin resides in this country.
The deceased's pay account is closed as soon as his death is officially reported, and it is then known as his non-effective account. A lapse of four or five months is necessary before a non-effective account can be properly certified as correct, and in some cases six months. If the next of kin, or beneficiary resides in this country, the account is forwarded here for settlement.

The pay books are all forwarded to the London office, and if the same contain a will, it is extracted and placed on file for safe keeping and properly indexed.
When the non-effective account, personal and surplus effects reach the office of the Estates Branch, Ottawa, the legal domicile of the decreased is carefully gone into and in the case of an intestacy the military estate is distributed according to the law of the province or country of the deceased's domicile.
It is worthy of note that a minor (unmarried) cannot acquire a domicile of choice but has the same domicile as his father-that of origin.
A soldier, even if he is not of full age, may, under section 9 of the Wills Act, whilst on actual military service, dispose of his personal estate either by a holograph will, by letter, or by a verbal statement substantiated by witnesses. This section applies to all the provinces' in Canada, with slight difference in Quebec. Section 849 of the Civil Code of Quebec provides that a soldier on military service may make a will which if valid in England as regards its form would likewise be valid in Quebec, though by section 835 a minor is incapable of bequeathing any part of his property by will. So, therefore, a soldier domiciled in Quebec, if a minor, as declared from making a valid will; but if of full age can dispose of his personal property without the necessity of the regular form.
All wills are carefully examined here, the domicile decided, and the intention of the testator is carried out as far as possible. A military will can only dispose of personal estate. Real estate is in no way affected unless there is a will duly executed and attested by witnesses according to the ordinary legal practice. This is a point which should be brought to the attention of the soldier when he is making his will, ns sometimes it is impossible to carry out his full wishes after death.
The legatees named in the wills are all notified, a certified copy is forwarded to them, and an identification form is enclosed for completion and return to the office of the Estates Branch.
The officer in charge of the Estates Branch is fully empowered by an Order in Council, dated 28th March, .1916, promulgated under the authority of the Regimental Debts Act, 1893, and an order made by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, dateij 3rd December, 1915, to decide all questions of domicile, of validity of wills, of law and of fact, and to distribute all military estates in the manner laid down by the different sections of this said Act. No appeal can be taken from this officer's decision.
All estates are distributed without delay as soon as the necessary papers reach the office of the Estates Branch; but it must be borne in mind that it is always from four to six months at the very earliest before an estate can be legally distributed.
Numerous cases are delayed by a will turning up at the last moment, but every care is [DOT]taken that no wrongful distributions are made.
In the case of missing men, thirty weeks must elapse before the necessary steps can be taken to presume death (a presumption entertained for official purposes only) and the estates of such missing men cannot be distributed until four months after such presumption of death lias been made. -
H. Spencer-Relph,
Officer i/c Estates for A. & P.M.G.
I Sir Robert Borden.]

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