Dependants and Insolvent Estates

August 30, 2021 Stuart Clark Support After Death Tags: , , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

We have previously blogged at length about the broad discretionary powers of the court to award support for dependants after death under Part V of the Succession Law Reform Act. Although support applications are most often commenced in circumstances where the insufficient support was caused directly by the estate planning of the deceased individual (or lack thereof), a support application can also be a useful tool where, as a result of the deceased’s debts and liabilities at the time of death, the deceased’s estate is insolvent such that the bequests in the Will may not be carried out.

Section 2(3) of Ontario’s Creditors’ Relief Act provides:

“A support or maintenance order has the following priority over other judgment debts, other than debts owing to the Crown in right of Canada, regardless of when an enforcement process is issued or served:

  1. If the maintenance or support order requires periodic payments, the order has priority to the extent of all arrears owing under the order at the time of seizure or attachment.
  2. If the support or maintenance order requires the payment of a lump sum, the order has priority to the extent of any portion of the lump sum that has not been paid.”

Simply put, the payment of a support order, including those under Part V of the Succession Law Reform Act, is paid in priority to all other judgment debts other than those owed to the “Crown in right of Canada” (i.e. taxes).

Generally speaking a deceased’s debts and liabilities are paid in priority to all distributions to beneficiaries, such that where these liabilities are significant there could be little to no funds remaining to pay the beneficiaries after the debts are paid. As a result of the priority of support orders over other judgment debts, it could be advantageous for a surviving spouse or next of kin when faced with an insolvent estate to commence an Application for support as a dependant. If the individual is confirmed as a dependant the payment of their support Order would take priority over any other judgment debts, potentially resulting in a situation where the dependant receives a benefit from the estate where such a benefit otherwise would not materialize had they waited for their bequest under the Will or intestacy.

Thank you for reading.

Stuart Clark

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