Love Over Blood: Ontario Court Grants Entire Estate to Common-Law Partner in Bolte v. McDonald Estate

Love Over Blood: Ontario Court Grants Entire Estate to Common-Law Partner in Bolte v. McDonald Estate

In a recent case, the Ontario Divisional Court had to decide who should receive the estate of a person who passed away without leaving a will. The Deceased had lived with his common-law partner for over twenty years, but he also had a daughter from a previous relationship. When he died at 61 years old, his estate included a house, a pension, and a life insurance policy.

The matrimonial home was sold, and approximately $300,000 in net proceeds were placed into trust. His pension was valued at about $915,000, and he had named his common-law partner as the beneficiary for the pension’s survivor benefits. Additionally, he had a $53,000 life insurance policy, with his daughter listed as the beneficiary.

Throughout the years, the Deceased had minimal contact with his daughter due to her addiction issues. Occasionally, he provided her with small sums of money. The daughter had three young children with special needs.

After the Deceased’s death, his common-law partner sought financial support from his estate through the Succession Law Reform Act (SLRA). However, the daughter’s estate, represented by a trustee, opposed this claim. Initially, a judge awarded the entire estate to the common-law partner, which the daughter’s estate then appealed.

The Ontario Divisional Court upheld the initial decision, awarding the entire estate to the common-law partner. The court considered several factors, including the longstanding relationship between the Deceased and his partner, and the distant relationship he had with his daughter and grandchildren. The court referenced a previous case, Pigott Estate v. Pigott, which provided guidelines for deciding if grandchildren should be considered dependents under the SLRA.

· Whether the grandchildren cohabitated with the deceased

· Whether the deceased contributed financially to their day-to-day needs

· Whether the deceased had decision-making power regarding the children’s names, schooling, or discipline

· Whether the deceased treated them similarly to his own children

· Whether the deceased had continued access or visitation

This case emphasized factors such as whether the deceased had a “settled intention” to treat the grandchildren as children of his family.

Ultimately, the judge determined that the common-law partner had a stronger claim to the estate than the daughter’s estate or grandchildren. The decision highlighted the Deceased’s lack of involvement with his grandchildren and the enduring relationship with his partner. The ruling was seen as reasonable and consistent with legal standards, prioritizing the partner’s claim over the more tenuous claims from the daughter’s estate.

This case underscores the importance of having a will and clearly outlining intentions for one’s estate to avoid complex legal battles.

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