Karen Christiansen (“Karen”) found out the hard way why it’s important to keep one’s will updated, especially when important life events occur. In MacLean Estate, 2009 BCSC 1159 (CanLII), the Supreme Court of British Columbia ruled that a will executed by Gordon McLean (“Gordon”) at the time he was cohabiting with and engaged to Karen was revoked by his actual marriage to Karen at a later date. The revocation prevented her from receiving the one-half of his estate left to her in a spousal trust under his will. The Court observed that relevant legislation (very similar to that in Ontario) clearly states that “a will cannot survive the conversion of a common-law relationship to one of lawful marriage without a declaration in the will that it is made in anticipation of that marriage and the conversion of that relationship to one of legal marriage.” Thus, in order for Karen to inherit, Gordon should have preferably included such declaration in his will OR executed a new will immediately after his marriage to Karen. Examples of other events which should prompt you to consult your lawyer about possibly amending your will are:
- You or anyone mentioned in your will change names
- One of your principle beneficiaries or executor dies or becomes ill
- A child or grandchild is born
- Your financial circumstances change significantly
- You sell a significant asset including your business, family home or recreational property
As this list is non-exhaustive, it is prudent to review your will, powers of attorney and estate plan regularly and at least every couple of years.
Download the PDF: Concepts Newsletter – Winter 2010