One of the best reasons to make sure you have a valid and current will is that it is the best way to ensure that your estate is divided up in a way that you wish following your death. Throughout your life, there may be a number of times when updating your will is necessary. For example, you may want to update your will following marriage, a divorce, the birth of a child, or the death of a spouse. Failing to update your will when circumstances would otherwise warrant doing so can leave your estate divided in a way contrary to your wishes. In a recent decision from the Supreme Court of British Columbia, the family of a deceased woman claimed that a note left behind by her should have reflected a change in her will, which left a substantial gift to a charity.

Will leaves residue of estate to charity

The deceased (“EM”) died in 2017 at the age of 99. Her closest living family members at the time of her death included a niece and three nephews. EM drafted a will in 2013 that left the residue of her estate to the BC Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (“SPCA”). Some specific gifts were provided to family members.

The most valuable asset owned by EM was her home, which was estimated to be worth $1.4 million in 2013, and was worth about $1.9 million when she passed away. The family found a note written by EM which stated that rather than receiving the full residue of the estate, family members were to receive money from the estate, with the SPCA receiving $100,000.

Was the note enough to change the will?

The family members argued that the note was intended to be representative of the final wishes and intentions of EM. If the note did not hold up as an update to the will, the SPCA stood to receive well over $1 million from the estate.

The note listed the family members in the same order as in the will, and she told some family members that she had left them something in her will. The note was also left in a lockbox next to the will. It would seem that the deceased intended for the note to compliment the will, but can that be enough?

Unfortunately for the surviving family members, the court found a number of problems with the note.  The note did not include a title or date. Furthermore, it was not signed by EM or a witness. It was also not notarized. Finally, the note did not specify how much money some beneficiaries were supposed to receive.

Despite there being some reasons to uphold the note, there were too many issues blocking it from being found to be valid. This means that the SPCA will receive about $1.4 million from the estate of the deceased. Contact NULaw in Toronto to obtain effective legal guidance with all of your estate planning needs, including wills and powers of attorney. An experienced estate lawyer can help you achieve your long-term goals and objectives, and plan ahead to protect yourself and your loved ones. Contact us online or at 416-481-5604 to book a consultation today.

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