SLRA Dependant Awarded Entirety of Estate

July 24, 2018 Doreen So Common Law Spouses, Continuing Legal Education, Estate Planning, Executors and Trustees, Litigation, Support After Death Tags: , , , , 0 Comments

In Michael v. Thomas, 2018 ONSC 3125, Justice Ramsay awarded a dependant support claimant the entirety of the Estate net of all debts and liabilities.  The dependant support claimant in this case was a common law spouse of approximately 20 years.  Ms. Michael was in her late-fifties/early sixties when Mr. Chambers died suddenly from cancer without a will. 

Mr. Chambers and Ms. Michael were not married at the time of Mr. Chambers’ death.  Accordingly, Ms. Michael was not a beneficiary of Mr. Chambers’ Estate pursuant to the rules of intestacy.  Mr. Chambers did not have any children either so the beneficiaries of his Estate were his surviving siblings and two nephews who were the sons of his predeceased sister.

Justice Ramsay found that Mr. Chambers and Ms. Michael lived modestly during Mr. Chambers’ life.  They were joint owners of their home, which Ms. Michael received by right of survivorship.  The home was subject to a mortgage of about half its market value in the amount of $150,000.00.  Ms. Michael was also the beneficiary of a modest $80,000.00 life insurance policy and her income became supplemented by an additional $3,325 per month through the deceased’s CPP and pension benefits.  Ms. Michael worked part-time and has two adult children of her own.  Interestingly, Justice Ramsay commented that Ms. Michael should not have to seek support from her adult children under the Family Law Act (even though she could, theoretically) before seeking support from Mr. Chambers’ Estate.

In considering the Respondent’s case, Justice Ramsay found that Mr. Chambers did not have any other dependants and that he was estranged from the only party who responded to Ms. Michael’s claims in Court.  Mr. Chambers’ sister argued that Ms. Michael already received $203,965 out of the assets of the Estate, which, including section 72 assets, were worth a total $285,000.   She further argued that Ms. Michael would be able to maintain the same standard of living that she used to enjoy if Ms. Michael supplements the pension income by working full-time at minimum wage.  In his analysis, Justice Ramsay squarely stated as follows:

[19]           I do not agree. It is not reasonable to expect the Applicant to take an entry level job at the age of 62 when she is already past the point of being able to sustain full time physical labour, even light physical labour. Even if it were possible, it would only raise her earnings to the low $40,000 range, which would still not be enough to continue the modest standard to which she was accustomed. I do not think that the intestate made adequate provision for the proper support of the Applicant.

[20]           The estate is not big enough to make periodic payments. In fact it is not big enough to provide the proper support the Applicant needs. I think that a judicious spouse would have left her the entire estate, such as it is. The Applicant is the only dependant and the only person with any moral claim on the estate. Accordingly I order the trustee to convey to the Applicant the entire residue of the estate after payment of taxes, debts of the estate and his own fees and I declare that the amounts already received or already in the Applicant’s possession are hers to keep.

Ms. Michael was also awarded partial indemnity costs from Mr. Chambers’ sister.  Mr. Chambers’ sister was found to have no need for “more found money” from Mr. Chambers’ Estate because of the inheritance that she received from their mother, and that costs from the Estate would have the same effect as awarding costs against Ms. Michael.

Thanks for reading!

Doreen So

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