Estate Lawyer News

How does Marriage Affect an Estate in BC?

Wills | 8 June 2021

If you have an estate in BC, it is important to understand how marriage intersects with estate law and how spouses can affect your estate and how it is distributed. This knowledge can be used to ensure that all parties are receiving (or not receiving) exactly what you want them to. If you are unsure about how marriage affects an estate in BC, the team of legal experts at Legatum Estate Litigation can help. We offer complete services for will disputes, trust disputes, and other areas of estate law.

WESA and Marriage

Before WESA (the Wills, Estates and Succession Act), if an individual signed a will before they were married, that will was automatically revoked upon their marriage. The exception to this rule was if the will included a statement that it was signed in contemplation of the impending marriage. Under the new rules of WESA, marriage no longer revokes a valid will. As a result, individuals with a will made prior to marriage need to ensure that their spouse is added to their will in the manner that they wish. It is important to note that wills revoked due to marriage before WESA will remain revoked.

Spouses, Separation, and Disinheritance

The term “spouse” can refer to a married or common-law partner. When an individual with a will is married or lives with a partner in a marriage-like relationship for 2 or more years, they can add them to their will in whichever capacity they choose* that person is a spouse and there are certain rights the spouse will have with respect to their partner’s estate.

If anything is left in a will to a spouse but the relationship ends before death, the bequests (gifts in the will) to the former spouse will be voided. The former spouse is treated as if they died before the will-maker. This applies whether the former spouse is from a marriage or a common-law relationship.

For married spouses, separation of any kind (including divorce) will disentitle the spouse from receiving anything from the will.  For common-law spouses, ending the relationship or separating will have the same effect. If an individual does not have a valid will and dies (this is referred to as dying intestate), their former married or common-law spouse will receive nothing under intestacy rules if the relationship ended before death.

Under WESA, if spouses separated, they can avoid disinheriting their spouse if they reconcile within one year of separation and live together for at least 90 days. Otherwise, they will not be considered spouses at the time of death and will not receive any gifts under their former spouse’s will.

Ensure That you are Properly Prepared

Marriage, cohabitation/common-law relationships, and break-ups can have a significant effect on an estate and how it is distributed. At Legatum Estate Litigation, our team of legal experts can work with you to determine if a person qualified as a spouse, if there was a legal separation prior to death, or any other marriage/common-law spouse questions with respect to the estate of a loved one. We can also work with you to understand your rights with respect to a loved one’s estate and their will.

If you would like to learn more about how marriage affects an estate or have questions regarding a will, please contact Legatum Estate Litigation at 604-425-0340 or through our online contact form.

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