Whether or not you are legally married, a person with whom you are in a relationship may be considered your spouse for estate planning purposes.
That is because the Wills, Estates and Succession Act defines a spouse as someone you were living with in a marriage-like relationship for at least two years. What constitutes a marriage-like relationship? The answer to that question is not as cut and dry as most people might think.
There is no one factor that will determine whether or not a relationship is marriage-like. Instead, the determination of spousal status requires analysis of numerous factors, a combination of which may or may not add up to ‘spouse’ depending on the specific case.
Importantly, there is no requirement of “cohabitation” for a relationship to qualify as marriage-like in nature. Other than shelter, factors a court will consider include: sexual and personal behaviour; services; social, societal, and economic support; children; and the parties’ intentions and expectations regarding the duration of the relationship.
If your relationship is found to be ‘spousal’, it can affect your estate in significant ways. If you die without a will in place, your spouse will be entitled to a preferential share of your estate, plus a portion of the residue, plus an entitlement to occupy the family home. If you die with a will in place that fails to provide adequate maintenance and support for your spouse, that spouse will be entitled to apply to the court to vary your will.
Whatever your circumstances, it is important to know whether that ‘special someone’ constitutes a spouse when it comes to your estate planning. Want to know more? Call or email us today!
This article is intended for information purposes only and should not be taken as the provision of legal advice. Grace C. Cleveland is a lawyer with the law firm of Cleveland Doan LLP and can be reached at (604)536-5002 or firstname.lastname@example.org.