Progressive Changes To Ontario Estate Law

New legislation pertaining to the estate planning process came into effect in Ontario on January 1, 2022. The changes simplify the estate planning process and will affect the validity of wills after marriage, property rights of separated spouses, and wills with technical errors.

Marriage no longer revokes a will

Laws affecting the validity of pre-existing wills by marriage have been repealed. Previously, wills were automatically revoked when citizens of Ontario got married. However, as of January 1, 2022, wills will continue to be valid after marriage and will no longer be revoked. 

Anyone who was married before January 1, 2022, is still subject to the old laws. This implies they are considered to be without a will unless they make a new one after or in contemplation of marriage.

Separated spouses no longer have property rights

Previously, if an ex-spouse was separated but not divorced, they could seek for a portion of their deceased spouse’s estate. The separation will now be treated the same as divorce under new laws. Former spouses who are separated or divorced no longer have property rights, and they will not be appointed executor of the estate if their spouse dies with or without a will.

Separated spouses include spouses who were living separate and apart at the time of death and who:

  • Had been living separately and apart for three years due to a marriage breakdown prior to the date of death.
  • Had a valid separation agreement. 
  • Had a court-ordered settlement agreement.
  • Had a family arbitration award. 

Wills with technical errors can now be saved 

New laws provide more leeway in determining whether or not a will is valid. Wills will now be examined on a case-by-case basis for substantial compliance in order to establish whether they are valid. As a result, the number of wills that are overturned due to technical errors will be reduced.

Virtual witnessing of estate planning documents 

Virtual witnessing of estate planning documents, such as wills, are now legal on an ongoing and permanent basis. This is accomplished through the use of audio-visual technology. Although this rule only applies to wills made on or after April 7, 2020, it is worth mentioning.

It’s also worth noting that one of the witnesses must be a licensed lawyer or paralegal.

By ensuring your estate planning documents reflect the latest in estate planning law, you can feel confident that your wishes will be carried out as documented.

Speaking with a team of experienced chartered professional accountants can help you reduce financial risks and make informed estate planning decisions. At IDM, we can help you navigate the complicated process of getting your financial affairs in order and designing your estate in a way that protects your wealth while also ensuring that your business and other assets are transferred to your intended beneficiaries with the minimum amount of tax liability.