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As always you can get easy access to legal information on our website, and our Legal Information Line, live chat and email services remain open to help you get the legal information you need.
We are also working to answer questions about the law relating to the COVID-19 situation. We are sharing updates about changes to government programs and court services as we get them. We are working to keep this page current and add content. Please get in touch with us if you know about law updates that are not listed here yet, or if you find content that is not current.
Nova Scotia government
You can find all the COVID-19 measures taken by the Nova Scotia government on the government’s website at novascotia.ca/coronavirus. The site has information about the state of emergency, closure of schools and public places, support for individuals, families and businesses, and other topics. You can also find information about preparing to reopen here: https://novascotia.ca/reopening-nova-scotia/
The Canadian government publishes regular updates on its website at canada.ca/coronavirus. You will find information about financial aid, the borders, and advice for travellers.
Go here for specific information from the Government of Canada about financial aid for individuals, families and businesses.
Nova Scotia municipalities
Many Nova Scotia municipalities have adapted service delivery (e.g. transit) in light of COVID-19 and they have made their own orders (e.g. ordering municipal parks closed, restricting trail use) and may be offering alternative payment options, including deadline extension, for tax bills.
Check with your local municipality for COVID-19 updates:
Do I need a doctor's note if I am sick with COVID-19 and off work?
The Nova Scotia government is currently directing employers not to require a doctor’s note if employees are sick with COVID-19 and need to be off work. See "Support your employees if they need to stay home" for more information.
Returning to work and Workplace COVID-19 Prevention Plans
Nova Scotia is starting to reopen and we must work together to make that happen as safely as possible for everyone. It is a team effort to minimize exposure and maximize workplace health and safety.
If your employer has met provincial safety requirements and has asked you to return to work, generally you are expected to return to work. Each workplace is different though, so what might be appropriate in one workplace or for one employee might not work in another workplace or for all employees.
Your employer must:
- follow the Health Protection Act Order - check here for updates
- follow public health directives
- follow occupational health and safety requirements
- have a Workplace COVID-19 Prevention Plan
- follow business and service restrictions and sector specific plans
- have a plan to protect employees and customers
- respect human rights legislation, including meeting the duty to accommodate.
Your employer must make their Workplace COVID-19 Prevention Plan available to employees when asked so that employees can review it.
Talk with your employer if you have concerns or questions about the employer’s plan to prevent the spread of COVID-19. For example, you might want to ask your employer about how physical distancing rules will be implemented, increased cleaning around the workplace, whether protective equipment such as masks will be provided, and about how and when employee training around safe practice guidelines will happen.
The Nova Scotia government has guidance for employers and employees on how to keep the workplace safe, including information about:
Nova Scotia Power
Nova Scotia Power announced on March 23 2020 that for at least the next 90 days, they will not be disconnecting customers for nonpayment. You can get more information from Nova Scotia Power here.
On March 19 2020 the Nova Scotia government announced that every individual and family member on income assistance will get an extra $50 starting Friday, 20 March. You do not need to apply.
Many banks, and credit unions, including Credit Union Atlantic, have said they will offer special measures for clients on a case-by-case basis for their mortgage payments. This includes deferred payments. Interest may still build up on the balance though, so ask about that. Since every situation differs, it is best to get in touch with your bank or credit union directly.
If you've lost income because of COVID-19 and can't afford to pay your mortgage, you may be able to defer (postpone) payments. The first step is to contact your lender to find out what your options are. Check your lender's website too as it will have the most up-to-date information. Remember that deferring your mortgage payments now still means you’ll have to pay both the principal and the interest later. It may be a short-term emergency option, but make sure you understand what a mortgage deferral means and that you also take steps now to make a financial plan for the future. Here are some resources that may help:
Managing financial health in challenging times
The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada has prepared a new resource on managing finances during an emergency.
Globe and Mail Investor Newsletters: Carrick on Money. You can also subscribe to Carrik's podcast - Stress Test, which will cover core ideas of smart money management for people aged 20 to 40.
The Government of Canada announced flexibility measures for taxpayers. This means the due date for filing individual tax returns has been extended to June 1, 2020, and you can pay any balance owing to the Canada Revenue Agency, without penalty, by September 1, 2020. Filing deadlines for businesses and charities have also been extended. You can get more information from the Canada Revenue Agency here.
It is still a good idea to file your taxes as early as you can if you expect a refund or want to make sure child benefits or other credits get properly calculated and applied.
Changes in RRIF minimum withdrawals
The Government of Canada’s Covid-19 Economic Response Plan included a temporary reduction (2020 only) in the minimum Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF) withdrawal amounts. If you are a retiree withdrawing the minimum from your RRIF or Defined Contribution Pension Plan and would prefer to withdraw less this year due to the significant decline in the stock market, these measures may provide some relief.
The following questions and answers are provided to help financial institutions, RRIF annuitants, as well as sponsors and members of defined contribution registered pension plans and pooled registered pension plans, understand the changes: CRA and COVID-19 - RRIFs
Canada Child Benefit
The federal government will be providing an extra $300 per child through the Canada Child Benefit for 2019-2020, paid as part of the scheduled May payment. You do not need to re-apply if you are already get the Canada Child Benefit.
Special GST/HST credit payment
The federal government will be providing a one-time special payment to low and modest income individuals and and families through the Goods and Services Tax credit. You do not need to apply for this payment. If you are eligible, you will get it.
Government of Canada financial support for individuals and businesses
Go here for specific information from the Government of Canada about financial aid for individuals, families and businesses.
Financial help for students
Am I eligible for the Canada Emergency Student Benefit?
Not sure if you qualify for the Canada Emergency Student Benefit? Contact the Canada Revenue Agency at 1-833-966-2099
The Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) helps students and recent graduates who are not eligible for the CERB or EI, and who cannot work, cannot find work, or who are making less than $1,000 a month because of COVID-19.
The benefit gives $1,250 every 4 weeks for eligible students, or $2,000 for eligible students who have a disability, or who have children or someone with a disability who depends on them.
The benefit is available for up to 16 weeks, from May to August 2020.
You are eligible for the CESB if all of the following apply to you:
- You did not apply, receive, or qualify for CERB or EI benefits for the same period of time
- You are a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, registered as an Indian under the Indian Act, or protected person
- You are studying in Canada or abroad
- You are enrolled in a post-secondary program (minimum 12 weeks in length) that will lead to a degree, diploma, or certificate
- You completed or ended your post-secondary program in December 2019 or later
- You finished or expect to finish high school/GED equivalent in 2020 and have applied for a post-secondary program that starts before February 1, 2021
- You can’t work because of COVID-19
- You are looking, but can’t find work due to COVID-19
- You are working but your income is $1,000 or less (before taxes) during the 4-week period you are applying for
You can apply through the Canada Revenue Agency starting May 15, 2020. There are specific days for you to apply depending on your situation. Complete the survey here to find out which day you should apply. You must apply before September 30, 2020.
The CRA is not checking to make sure you qualify before giving you the money. This means that you could get the money even if you don’t qualify. If that happens, they’ll make you pay back the money.
It may take months before the CRA can check everyone's eligibility. So make sure that you qualify before applying.
The CESB is a taxable benefit. You will have to record the amount you receive on next year's income tax return. You will receive a T4A tax slip for the amount you receive through the CESB.
See here for other government initiatives to help students during COVID-19.
What if I cannot pay my student loan right now?
Canada and Nova Scotia Student Loan payments have been suspended until September 30, 2020. You will not gain interest on your loan while your payments are suspended. The suspension is automatic - you do not need to apply. If you pay through pre-authorized debit payments, these will be suspended.
Nova Scotia Securities Commission COVID19 Information for Investors
COVID-19 Fraud alerts, articles and tips
- COVID-19 Scams, Frauds and Misleading claims - Information from the Government of Canada
- COVID-19 Fraud awareness video for investors
- RCMP COVID-19 Fraud and cyber-crime prevention video
- Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre
- Better Business Bureau consumer tips and information about COVID-19 related scams: https://www.bbb.org/council/coronavirus/
- CBC news "Canadians have lost more than $1.2 million to COVID-19 scams" - May 1 2020
Last updated May 21 2020
Courts and Legal Aid
Courts, court appearances
Nova Scotia courts have a safe services model in place.
If you are due in court and you have travelled recently or are experiencing symptoms you should contact your lawyer (if you have one) or contact the court right away to get instructions from the presiding judge.
Here is contact information for all Nova Scotia courts: www.courts.ns.ca
Do not go to a courthouse if you:
- have travelled outside Canada in the past 14 days, or
- are experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus, or
- have been directed by public health officials, 811, or your doctor to self-isolate.
You can get detailed information about what is happening at all Nova Scotia courts here: courts.ns.ca
Masks are mandatory: All visitors to Nova Scotia courthouses are required to wear a non-medical mask in all common areas of the building. Visitors should bring their own, however they're also available on site at the court if you don't have access. Masks aren't required in courtooms unless the judge says so. Here is more information.
Tickets and ticket fines: Public access to courthouses is restricted to those who work in the building, who are involved in a court hearing or those who have an appointment. No front counter services are available. Individuals who want to pay a fine have the option to pay online. Please note that you will need a debit card or credit card and your ticket number to complete an online payment. For those who may need more time to pay, the Provincial Court has extended payment deadlines a further 90 days from the original due date on the ticket. That directive was first issued in March and has been extended twice, each time an additional 90 days, to help reduce the number of people that need to visit a courthouse during the pandemic. Details here.
Please note: As of September 1, 2020 some Night Court matters for tickets in Halifax are going ahead in person. Court staff are contacting those who have a summary offence trial scheduled to let them know. Night Court dockets (court appearance schedules) are also available online here.
Nova Scotia Legal Aid
In an effort to reduce the need for Nova Scotians to go to courthouses, Nova Scotia Legal Aid will help any unrepresented people who need urgent changes to their Undertaking or Recognizance ('no contact order'). Find out more here
NSLA has expanded its online family law chat service. NSLA has also expanded its family summary advice services by making it available by phone at all NSLA Offices that provide family law services. Details here.
NSLA may also provide help to peace bond applicants. Details here.
If you are experiencing abuse at home, supports are still available during the pandemic to keep you and your children safe. Help is available. Please reach out. Do not feel that you must stay at home if it is not safe. Here is more information about Nova Scotia's Family Violence laws and resources.
If you have an emergency call 9-1-1.
Transition houses throughout Nova Scotia are providing shelter with government support, while still following public health advice. Contact the shelter nearest you or call 1-855-225-0220 toll free, day or night.
You can also contact 211 Nova Scotia - dial 2-1-1 or text 21167. They can help you find services in your community any time of day or night and any day of the year. They can help you in French or English. They can also help you through an interpreter in many languages.
2-1-1 can help you find:
- a safe place away from an abuser
- information or advice about the law
- victim services to help when you need it.
Here is information about applying for a peace bond ('no contact order') during the pandemic:
- Get help from Nova Scotia Legal Aid to apply for a peace bond
- The Provincial Court has adopted a virtual peace bond process. Go here to learn about how it works, and the application form with signature or without signature
- Here is legal information about peace bonds
Last updated August 31 2020
Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission
The NS Human Rights Commission (NSHRC) has issued a policy statement about COVID-19, emphasizing the importance of respecting the human rights principles under the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act (Act), the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Charter) and all Public Health direction at the centre of decision-making during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The statement reads in part:
Discrimination including harassment against any persons or communities related to COVID-19 is prohibited when it involves a ground under the Act, in the areas of services, housing, employment, vocational associations and contracts.
The Act protects against discrimination based on 18 grounds, whether perceived or otherwise, including disability, ethnic origin, place of origin and race. The NSHRC’s position is that the Act’s ground of disability is engaged in relation to COVID-19, as it covers medical conditions or perceived medical conditions that carry significant social stigma. Depending on the situation other grounds may also apply.
Read the full NSHRC policy statement here.
The NSHRC is not accepting walk-in clients or appointments right now, but they are still open and you can contact them if you have human rights questions or a complaint.
Canadian Human Rights Commission
The Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) is open and responding to questions and complaints. It has issued a COVID-19 statement that focuses on the importance of respecting human rights and protecting those who are most vulnerable in our society during this difficult time. Read the statement here.
The best way to make a complaint to the CHRC right now is through their online form.
Wills, Personal Directives
Making a will
A will is a legal document that lets you say what you want done with your estate after you die. Your estate is your house, land, and personal things like jewellery and artwork. A will also lets you name an executor, who is the person you name in your will to carry out your final wishes. A will has no legal effect until you die. A person who makes a will is called a testator.
Why make a will?
Making a will should give you peace of mind. A will makes it easier for family or friends to handle your affairs when you die.
There are many good reasons to make a will. A will lets you:
- deal with your important things the way you want to,
- give some or all of your estate to your common law partner. Without a will only married spouses and registered domestic partners inherit,
- give something to a friend, a charity, stepchild, a relative through marriage, or to someone else you care about. Without a will only married spouses, registered domestic partners, blood relatives or legally adopted persons inherit,
- name someone who will carry out your wishes,
- name someone to care for children or others who depend on you,
- make sure your pets or other animals will be cared for,
- save money and time by stating your wishes,
- save taxes,
- arrange how a business you own will be handled,
- help your family and friends handle your affairs after you die,
- lessen stress for your family and friends,
- lessen confusion about your wishes, and
- prevent possible disputes over your possessions.
Ways to make a will
- Hire a lawyer to do your will. Lawyers usually charge a flat fee for doing a will and other estate planning documents. The cost will vary depending on how complicated your estate is. Talk to the lawyer about what you need, and they will tell you the cost. Here are some ways to find a lawyer, and ways a lawyer can help with a will. You will also need to talk with the lawyer about how the signing of the will can be witnessed given the rules about physical distancing, including whether that might be done remotely.
- Do a holograph will. This is a handwritten will that is signed by you. A holograph will must be entirely in your own handwriting. Do not type anything on it. Do not let anyone else write on it. You do not need witnesses.
Basic things to include:
- your full legal name
- a statement that this is your will and that you are revoking (cancelling) any prior will
- who you name as your executor
- your wishes - who you want to get your estate
- the date
- your signature
3. Use a will kit. Use a kit that is valid in Nova Scotia.
- Make sure that you sign your will at the end. You must sign it in front of two witnesses who must be present at the same time (this is different from a holograph will). If you cannot sign the will, you can ask someone to sign it for you in front of you and you must tell the two witnesses that the will is yours. Your two witnesses must also sign the will in front of you and in front of each other. The witnesses must be at least 19 years old. They must not be people who benefit from the will or be married to someone who benefits. The witnesses do not need to know what your will says.
- When you are signing your will, you should put your initials on each page and number the pages so that pages cannot be replaced or removed from the will.
- You should put the date on your will.
- You should also arrange for one of the witnesses to swear an affidavit of execution. The Affidavit may be done as soon as the will has been signed and witnessed (and might be done remotely through a lawyer), or later when public health rules have changed to make it easier.
People often make mistakes when they do their own will. Mistakes can cause problems later for beneficiaries and can be expensive for the estate. If you decide to do a holograph will or use a do-it-yourself will kit, it is a good idea to make a formal will later with a lawyer when the public health rules have been changed to make it easier to do that.
What happens if I die without a will?
Nova Scotia has a law called the Intestate Succession Act. This law says what happens if a person dies without a will. Intestate means a person who dies without a will.
If you die without a will, or you have a will but it is not legally valid, your property is distributed to the people considered to be your nearest relatives as listed in the Intestate Succession Act. The rules are not flexible. The distribution may be different from what you would want.
The basic rules are:
- If you are survived by your spouse and had no children all your property goes to your spouse
- If you are survived by your spouse and you had one child, the first $50,000 goes to your spouse. The rest is equally divided between your spouse and child.
- If you are survived by your spouse and more than one child, the first $50,000 goes to your spouse. One-third of the rest would go to your spouse, and two-thirds of the rest to your children.
- If you are survived by your children, but no spouse, your whole estate would go to your children.
- If you had no spouse or children, your whole estate would go to your nearest relatives by blood or adoption, by order of priority as listed in the Intestate Succession Act. Relatives by marriage are not included.
- The government would inherit if you have no surviving relatives.
A surviving spouse will always get up to $50,000 from the estate. If your surviving spouse is not a joint owner of the family home, they may choose to take the home and household contents instead, or as part of, the $50,000.
It is especially important to make a will if you want your common law partner, stepchildren, or grandchildren to inherit something from your estate when you die.
- If you die without a will, only your surviving married spouse or registered domestic partner can inherit. Common law partners are not included. Your common law partner will not automatically inherit your property or money. Your common law partner may have to go to court to make a claim on your estate.
- If you die without a will, only your biological and adopted children can inherit. Stepchildren are not included.
- If you die without a will, your grandchildren will only inherit from your estate if their parent (your child) died before you.
If you and your spouse die at the same time or if you are a single parent when you die, someone will have to look after people who depend on you (a child, grandchild, or person with a disability). If you die without a will, or if you do not name someone in your will to look after your children or grandchildren, the court will have to appoint someone to do this. That person will be called your children’s guardian. A person must apply to court to be appointed. And the person the court appoints might not be someone you would have chosen.
If the court appoints a guardian to look after your children, it will also often state the terms of the guardianship. Those terms might not be what you would have chosen.
If you die without a will, there will be extra steps in the process of settling your estate, which can mean additional costs and delays. This may add to your family’s pain and distress. It will also mean that there will be less left to distribute.
Family members may disagree and argue about how you intended to distribute your property.
Someone will have offer to look after your estate. The person must apply and be appointed by a court as an administrator. That person may not be someone you would have chosen.
The intestate law also applies if you do not deal with all your property in your will. In this case you are said to die partially intestate. The part of your estate not covered in your will is distributed according to the Intestate Succession Act.
Making a Personal Directive for Health Care decisions
A personal directive is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself and those who care about you. You must make your personal directive while you can still make decisions for yourself. You might not be able to make health care decisions for yourself at some time in the future. A personal directive can help to make sure that you get the care you want. It can help the people who care about you by letting them know what kinds of care you want.
You can use our Personal Directive App and Reflection Guide to make your Nova Scotia personal directive.
Updated August 31, 2020