Tag: family law act
I am often asked what effect child and/or spousal support obligations have on an estate. Do they cease as a result of the payor’s death or does the payor’s estate owe an obligation to continue the payments?
In Ontario, the law is clear as to an estate’s obligation to continue making support payments. According to section 34(4) of the Family Law Act, “an order for support binds the estate of the person having the support obligations unless the order provides otherwise”.
The rationale is explained by the leading decision of Linton v. Linton where the Ontario Court of Appeal held that as long as no contrary order is made, a support order is binding on the payor’s estate. Specifically, “…the practice of the family law bar…in which support is an issue…is to provide for the continued payment of support by the estate of the payer, or the payment of a capital sum, usually through life insurance, as a substitute”. Otherwise, the Court of Appeal states that if a support order is not binding on an estate, the needs of the survivor remain intact without any payments to satisfy them.
In the context of the Linton decision, the Court of Appeal states that the surviving spouse has every reason to expect that she is to be looked after in a financial way in the event her husband predeceased.
So what’s the bottom line? When seeking an order or negotiating in a separation agreement for the payment of child and/or spousal support, parties must be explicit as to whether support continues post death and whether that obligation is secured by life insurance.
Find this topic helpful? Please also consider these related Hull & Hull LLP Blogs:
- Dependants’ Support and the Spousal Support Guidelines
- Support Orders and the Limiting Role of the OCJ
- When Does a Separation Agreement Release an Entitlement Under a Will?
In Ontario, minors who are 16 years or older may choose to withdraw from parental control under section 65 of the Children’s Law Reform Act. This means that these minors have the ability to leave home prior to reaching the age of majority without obtaining the permission of their parents or the courts. However, this is not a decision that should be taken lightly as it can be accompanied by serious consequences.
Aside from practical concerns such as living arrangements and limited employment prospects for minors, withdrawing from parental control carries potential repercussions regarding entitlement to financial support. In short, a minor who has voluntarily withdrawn from parental control may inadvertently disentitle him or herself from receiving financial support.
This is an issue that is commonly raised within the context of child support. Section 31(2) of the Family Law Act provides that the obligation of a parent to support his or her child does not extend to a child who is sixteen years of age or older and has withdrawn from parental control. The question that the courts have struggled with is whether the minor’s withdrawal is voluntary or not. In many cases, the minor did indeed make the decision; however, if the minor was driven to this decision as a result of difficult circumstances in the home, it is likely that the decision will be viewed as a necessity.
Withdrawal from parental control can similarly impact a minor’s ability to claim dependant’s support after the death of a parent. According to section 62(1)(q) of the Succession Law Reform Act,
62(1) In determining the amount and duration, if any, of support, the court shall consider all the circumstances of the application, including,
(q) if the dependant is a child of the age of sixteen years or more, whether the child has withdrawn from parental control
Accordingly, withdrawal from parental control is one of a variety of factors that the court will look at in determining dependant’s relief claims (including the importance of moral claims which is discussed in more detail on our podcast here).
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Both the Family Law Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. F.3 (“FLA”) and the Succession Law Reform Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. S.26 (“SLRA”) contemplate the support of spouses. The FLA is focused specifically on spouses, while the SLRA deals with support of dependants, which includes a spouse of a deceased, as well as a parent, child, or sibling, to whom the deceased was providing support or legally obligated to provide support. Should these regimes be kept separate, or is there some meshing of the two, allowing for the FLA to influence the determination of spousal support under the SLRA?
The relevant sections of the FLA and the SLRA are as follows:
- FLA 30: “Every spouse has an obligation to provide support for himself or herself and for the other spouse, in accordance with need, to the extent that he or she is capable of doing so.”
- SLRA 58(1): “Where a deceased, whether testate or intestate, has not made adequate provision for the proper support of his dependants or any of them, the court, on application, may order that such provision as it considers adequate be made out of the estate of the deceased for the proper support of the dependants or any of them.”
As far back as 1984, in Mannion v Canada Trust Co., (1984) 24 ACWS (2d) 363, the Ontario Court of Appeal considered the predecessor to the FLA, the Family Law Reform Act, holding that “[a]lthough the matters to be considered under the Family Law Reform Act in the case of a spouse parallel in many respects the matters to be considered under the Succession Law Reform Act in the case of a widow, they are not identical. In many aspects the Succession Law Reform Act is broader.”
There have also been attempts to apply the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines to the determination of quantum of support payable to a surviving spouse. In Fisher v Fisher (2008), 88 OR (3d) 241 (Ont CA), it was held that the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines are not applicable in every case, and are intended to be a starting point in determining the amount of support that is fair. However, four years later in Matthews v Matthews, 2012 ONSC 933, the Court remarked that “the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines do not have any relevance…because those guidelines are based on income sharing and the formulas in the Advisory Guidelines generate ranges of outcomes rather than precise figures for amount and duration. Here the Respondent is deceased and there is no income on his part to share.”
Ultimately, the major distinction between the family law context and the succession law context is that in family law both parties continue to require support and sustenance to live on, while in the succession law context, only one party remains in need of such support. Therefore the balancing act that must often be undertaken in order to consider the needs of both spouses in a divorce, is not present in the case of a deceased and a surviving spouse. This is a significant difference between the two statutes, and it cannot be assumed that the FLA can be applied in the estate law context.
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This week on Hull on Estates, Paul Trudelle and Josh Eisen discuss some issues that can arise in equalization of net family property under the Family Law Act and why it might not be appropriate to elect in favour of equalization even when the spouse receives nothing under the will.
Should you have any questions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment on our blog.
Click here for more information on Josh Eisen.
Ontario`s Family Law Act has a profound impact on a couple`s financial situation on dissolution of a marriage. For instance, under Part I of the Act, “Property, other than a matrimonial home, that was acquired by gift or inheritance from a third person after the date of marriage” is excluded from an individual’s net family property (“NFP”). However, if the inheritance is invested into the matrimonial home, it ceases to be excluded from NFP.
With rising house prices in cities across the country, a large part of a young couple`s income tends to go into down payments, mortgage payments and improving the residence. It can take years for couples making modest incomes, many with some student or consumer debt, to save enough for a down payment on a starter home in a sought-after neighbourhood. When inheritance comes into the picture, the task becomes much less onerous.
With a fear of losing the sole right to one`s inheritance, however, young couples may think twice before investing the money in their family home.
The story of a couple encountering this scenario was recently illustrated in a MoneySense article here. It also outlines the possible options for the money in this type of situation.
One option is to keep the inheritance separate from a matrimonial home and invest the money for future use. This can be a good option if you are financially savvy and/or hire professionals to assist with management of portfolios. However, real estate is generally a solid way to invest, and means a couple can stop paying rent and start putting money into their future.
Another, more balanced, option would involve putting a portion of the money into the family home, while keeping the rest in other, individually-owned, investments. Although putting some money into the family home is a risk if divorce takes hold down the road, it is also a smart investment for the family’s future and for diversification of assets. One comfort in the compromise is that the young couples may eventually have children, thereby causing the couple to remain in each other`s lives, regardless of separation or divorce.
Thank you for reading.
Today on Hull on Estates, David Smith and Holly LeValliant discuss a recent case Brash v. Zyma, 2013 ONSC 2800, where the Applicant developed Parkinson’s Disease, which made it impossible for her to live in the matrimonial home. Accordingly, the Estate argued that at the valuation date (the date of death of the deceased), the property was not ordinarily occupied by the Applicant and therefore was not a matrimonial home pursuant to the Family Law Act. David and Holly discuss the broader implications of the issue in the Estates and Guardianship contexts.
If you have any questions, please email us at email@example.com or leave a comment on our blog page.
Click here for more information on Holly LeValliant.
Family law issues often make an appearance in estate litigation matters, as illustrated in a recent Ontario case, Yamada v. Zolad  O.J. No. 607 (Ont. S.C.).
In Yamada Estate, a woman suffering from Alzheimer’s was allowed to elect to take her share of net family property under the Family Law Act, rather than take a life interest in the residue of her husband’s estate under his will.
The husband and wife had married in 1982. In 1997, when the couple was living in London, the wife began showing signs of Alzheimer’s and was moved to a medical centre in 2001, when her condition became more severe. The husband visited the wife almost every day until 2003, when the wife was moved to a Toronto facility. By this time, the husband’s mobility was impaired and it became difficult for him to visit his wife in Toronto.
The husband had won a million dollars in 2002. He died in 2005, leaving a Will. Further to the terms of the Will, he left his wife a life interest in the residue of his estate, with power given to his estate trustees to encroach on the capital to ensure his wife’s comfort and welfare. On the death of the wife, the two estate trustees were to receive $10,000.00 each in lieu of compensation, with the balance to be divided equally between two charities.
The wife, through her litigation guardian, brought an application to elect to take her entitlement under the Family Law Act, rather than keep her life interest in the residue of the husband’s estate. The estate trustees opposed the application, claiming that the parties had separated in 2001. They claimed that the husband had a fixed intention to separate from the wife in 2001.
Justice Greer granted the wife’s application. She found that the couple had never made any legal or emotional efforts to separate during their marriage and/or destroy the marriage. There was no Separation Agreement and no divorce petition. The couple simply became physically separated due to the wife’s advancing Alzheimer’s disease. This physical separation was not sufficient to establish legal separation in the circumstances.
Justice Greer also found that the husband’s 2002 lottery win was the motivating factor behind the estate trustees’ opposition to the wife’s equalization claim. She noted that they chose a separation date that pre-dated the lottery win, notwithstanding that the husband had been frequently visiting the wife at this time. She further noted that there was no evidence that either of the charities (as capital beneficiaries of the Estate), were opposing the wife’s equalization claim. Justice Greer appeared to reprimand the estate trustees for their position on the application, stating that as estate trustees and beneficiaries, they should have taken a neutral position on the application. Interestingly, the estate trustees were still awarded their costs to be paid out of the estate.
Have a great day!
Bianca La Neve
While the Judgment in Webster v. Webster Estate , 25 E.T.R. (3d) 141 (Ont. S.C.J.) was rendered in July 2006, Justice Robertson’s Endorsement regarding the costs award in the matter was released in February 2007 (see  O.J. No. 371).
In Webster, the Applicant, Mrs. Webster, was seeking an Order extending the time in which she may file an election to make an equalization claim under s.5(2) of the Family Law Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. F.3 (the “FLA”) from the Estate of her deceased husband, Mr. Webster. The six month limitation period in s. 7(3)(c) of the FLA prevented the claim from succeeding unless an extension order was granted.
According to the Decision on the motion, Mr. and Mrs. Webster were married for 29 years; it was a second marriage for both parties. During their married life, Mr. and Mrs. Webster gave generously to the community. They lived happily ever after until the death of Mr. Webster on October 11, 2003. Mrs. Webster was a devoted wife. Mr. Webster was 87 years old when he died. Mrs. Webster was then 81 years old. Mrs. Webster developed Alzheimer’s disease, which progressed to the point where she was unable to testify as a witness in the proceeding.
Mr. Webster’s Estate was valued between $22 and $24 million. The bulk of the Estate was left to charity. The named executors of the Estate were Mrs. Webster, Mrs. Webster’s son by her first marriage, Mark Armitage (who was also her legal representative), Mr. Webster’s son by his first marriage, Norman Webster and the long-time trusted financial advisor to the testator, Mr. Ferguson. On consent, Mrs. Webster and Mr. Armitage were removed as executors of the Estate by Court Order dated January 12, 2006.
Mr. Webster’s Will provided Mrs. Webster with use of Ottawa and Florida residences (both owned by a company of which Mr. Webster was the sole shareholder), as well as $250,000.00 per year, net of tax income, for her life from a spousal trust. Subject to Mrs. Webster’s life interest, the Will required that the remainder of the Estate be paid out, within five years of the death of Mrs. Webster, to Mr. Webster’s Foundation and such other charities as the Executors might select. The designated charities were mostly schools and hospitals.
Justice Robertson dismissed the motion finding, among other things, that the case did not meet the criteria set out in s. 2(8)(b) and (c) of the FLA and that it would be unjust and contrary to the objectives of the FLA to use the extension provision in the manner pursued in this case.
The Respondents sought costs on a full recovery basis in the sum of $176,006.89 arising from the proceeding. Mrs. Webster, by her representative, was opposed to an Order granting costs to the Respondents.
Justice Robertson found that the Respondents’ legal costs and disbursements in the amount of $176,006.89 were reasonable and ordered that they be paid by the residue of the Estate of Mr. Webster. Mrs. Webster was responsible for paying her own legal costs.
In his Endorsement, the Judge noted that cost rules are designed for three fundamental purposes: (i) to indemnify successful litigations for the cost of litigation; (ii) to encourage settlements; and (iii) to discourage and sanction inappropriate behaviour by litigants. When success is divided, he noted that costs are apportioned. His Honour also noted that Rule 24 of the Family Law Rules is the primary rule dealing with costs. Although Rule 24(1) presumes that the successful party is entitled to costs, His Honour added that while the emphasis on the outcome is a significant factor, consideration of other factors must be carefully weighed.
His Honour also noted the following, among other things: (i) the nature of the relief sought could result in an Order with only two options: to extend or not to extend; (ii) the legal test was more complex and in that regard the success on individual points was more divided; (iii) the ability to pay a cost order was not an enumerated factor in determining liability or quantum pursuant to the cost rules (here, both parties had the means to satisfy any order made); (iv) the parties had acted in good faith; (v) neither party should be sanctioned for behaviour reasons; and (vi) both lawyers were well prepared and learned.
In addition, apparently, paragraph 19 of the Will specifically discouraged litigation and encouraged alternative dispute resolution. Despite this direction, there were no formal offers of settlement and the parties chose to waive a case conference. Given the experience and cooperation of the counsel, however, the Judge found that waiving the case conference in the face of a defined legal problem may have been practical and saved money.
In exercising discretion, Justice Robertson stated that after having balanced the amount claimed with the necessary considerations, including the complexity and importance of the legal issue, it was not appropriate to award costs against Mrs. Webster.
Have a great day.
During Hull on Estates Episode #42, Justin and Megan discussed the case of Godwin c. Bolcso  O.P.J. No. 297 and Section 32 of the Family Law Act.
This case concerns the application by a 58-year-old mother for support from four adult children. The issues covered included the definitions of "reasonable care" and "support", and insight into when support will be ordered for parents.
If a Will is made, or if there is an intestacy, a husband or wife receives the benefit provided under the deceased spouse’s Will or the intestacy provisions of the Successioin Law Reform Act, respectively, or is entitled to elect to instead receive his or her benefit under the Family Law Act.
Such election will be made if the husband or wife will receive a more favourable benefit by receiving one half of the difference between the net family properties of the deceased spouse and the survivor respectively.
Note that the right to elect is restricted to married spouses.
If an election under the Family Law Act will not benefit the surviving spouse, the option remains for the surviving spouse to claim against the estate under the provisions of Part V of the Succession Law Reform Act. The position asserted by the surviving spouse on such a claim is that the deceased spouse, by the provisions of his or her Will or on a distribution on an intestacy, did not satisfactorily provide for the needs of his or her spouse.