As people move through the various stages of their lives, they form relationships with others. Over time, people might have different understandings about their own relationships as well as relationships between other people. This is why proper estate planning is essential for people who want to ensure their estate is distributed as intended and also to make sure people know where they stand in regards to what they may receive from the estate. As we see in a recent decision from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, even when there is a will in place, there can still be disagreements over what the deceased’s intentions were and what someone’s relationship with the deceased was.

Deceased involved in common law relationship

The deceased passed away on May 2, 2020, at 84-years of age. His death followed a period of declining health as well as growing mobility issues. At the time of his death, he resided in a building he owned. The building contained two other units in addition to the one he lived in. He lived with a woman referred to by the court as “Erica.” They had been involved romantically in the 1960s, at which time Erica said she gave birth to the deceased’s son. However, they did not continue their relationship after the birth of their son. They eventually got back together when Erica moved in with the deceased in 2013. She has continued to reside there since the deceased passed away.

Will mentions nothing of companion

The deceased’s will was dated May 12, 2009. It designates his children as co-estate trustees and leaves his estate to his children and grandchildren. The will makes no mention of Erica at all.

At the time of the trial, Erica was 91 years old. While he has a subsidized apartment in the city, she says it is not sufficient to meet her medical needs and said that she needs to stay in the apartment she shared with the deceased. She also maintains that she and the deceased were common-law spouses, and as such, she has a life interest in the apartment. The deceased’s daughter did not agree that they were spouses or that a life interest is in place. She was seeking to sell the building in order to settle the estate’s tax liabilities.

What should happen to the apartment?

The court focused on the will being silent in respect of Erica. However, in a video recording made a few days before his death, the deceased said he wanted to provide her with $50,000 from a life insurance he had in place, adding that he wanted “the place where I reside” to go to his grandchildren.

The court found that selling the building was the only way for the estate to meet it tax liabilities, adding that Erica’s apartment was sufficient to meet her health needs, stating it is specifically designed for seniors and has been subject to upgrades since Erica was last there.

As a result of this, the court ruled that Erica must vacate the apartment so the estate could sell the building.

Contact the estate law team at NULaw in Toronto to obtain pragmatic legal guidance with dependant’s relief claims. Whether you are a beneficiary seeking adequate provisions from a testator, or you are an executor or estate trustee seeking assistance with defending a relief claim, we can help. Contact us online or at 416-481-5604 to book a consultation today.

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