Life Events and Your Estate Plan
As Estates Lawyers we frequently advise our clients as to the various life events that should trigger a review of their estate plans.
Such life events include:
- a marriage;
- the birth or adoption of a child;
- the birth of a grandchild;
- a separation or divorce;
- relocation to another province or country;
- the death of a spouse;
- the purchase or sale of a business; or
- any major change in financial situation, such as winning the lottery, inheritance or bankruptcy.
Each of the above life events is different, and has the potential to significantly impact your estate planning. In the following paragraphs we explain the specific impact of some of these life events:
Marriage: Many clients are surprised when we tell them that, in Ontario, marriage automatically voids a Will signed prior to the wedding (that is, unless the Will was specifically entered into “in contemplation of marriage”, and this is explicitly referenced in the Will).
Birth or Adoption of a Child: Parenthood tends to create a shift in priorities. Incorporating your children into your Will ensures they are looked after, not only financially, but by a custodian (guardian) of your choice, in the unlikely event you predecease them.
Separation: It is important to note that separation will not automatically render your previous Will void. In the absence of a Separation Agreement that limits the spouse’s entitlement, inheritance under a Will remains valid. This is true regardless of the length of the separation. In fact, section 17(1) of the Succession Law Reform Act specifically provides that a Will is not revoked by a presumed intention based on a change in circumstance.
Death of a Spouse: After the death of a spouse, many people update their Wills. However, it is important to remember that, unless properly drafted, changes to a Will may not automatically result in changes to other estate planning instruments such as RRSP designations or insurance policy designations.
Relocation: While a solid Will may be able to hold up in any province or country, it is still wise to have your estate planning documents reviewed whenever you move to a new jurisdiction to ensure there are no unnecessary tax or legal consequences. Some European countries, for example, have forced heirship regimes, and apply civil as opposed to common law in their jurisdictions.
Change in Financial Circumstances: New assets should always be incorporated into your estate plan to ensure they do not unnecessarily attract probate, however incorporation also ensures the assets go to your intended beneficiaries, and at the right time.
Not all life events will require changes to your estate planning. However the above life events should prompt a review of your estate plan to ensure your intentions are adequately reflected.
Thank you for reading,