Hull on Estate and Succession Planning Podcast #35 – The Family Conference – Special Needs Beneficiaries
READ THE TRANSCRIBED PODCAST HERE
During Hull on Estate and Succession Planning Podcast #35, we discussed:
- Special needs beneficiaries;
- What the definition of a special needs beneficiary is;
- The use of trusts for special needs beneficiaries; and
- The proper planning for special needs beneficiaries and what happens to the assets and the trust when the special needs beneficiary dies.
Spousal relationships (and their breakdown) and their interaction with estate litigation are the focus of this week’s blogs. In the practice of estate litigation, there is an immense body of applicable case law and statutory authority.
For the purpose of these blogs, the term "married spouse" is used to consider those entitlements which are only granted to those spouses who fall within the definition of marriage in Ontario. The term "unmarried spouse" is used to consider the entitlements of spouses who are not married but who are conferred benefits under the provisions of certain statutes.
(i) Rights of a married spouse on an intestacy
The entitlement of a married spouse on an intestacy is statutory: Succession Law Reform Act, Part II. A surviving husband or wife, on an intestacy, receives the entire estate of his spouse if there are no children. If there are children, the surviving husband or wife still receives the first $200,000.00 of the estate and either 1/2 of the remainder if there is one child or 1/3 of the remainder if there are two of more children of the marriage.
(ii) Rights of an unmarried spouse on an intestacy A surviving unmarried spouse, on an intestacy, receives no entitlement. A spouse is defined for the purposes of Part II of the Succession Law Reform Act as either a man or a woman who is married.
Although there are some cases in other provinces which suggest that this statutory provision offends the equality provisions of the Charter, the only available statutory remedy for an unmarried spouse on an intestacy in Ontario is to bring an application for support under the provisions of Part V of the Succession Law Reform Act.
Tomorrow, we will consider the entitlements of married and unmarried spouses under a Will and their entitlements when the benefit under the Will is less than adequate.
Have a great day, David. ——–
We have made note this week of the fact that a beneficiary designation is subject to considerably less legal formality than a Will. The fact that many Canadians do not have Wills often means that the designation of a beneficiary is the primary means by which an individual engages in estate planning. This is particularly true of those in their thirties or forties whose largest assets will often be RRSPs or life insurance policies. We have noted that such estate planning has the benefit of clearly directing assets to the intended beneficiary without the need for obtaining probate of a Will.
Certainly, non-legal professionals such as financial advisors will frequently highlight the benefits to their clients of structuring their affairs in such a way as to minimize estate administration tax. Lawyers, as well, will recommend such benefits, mindful of the pitfalls associated when a beneficiary does not act as intended. For instance, where an individual designates a beneficiary of an asset, not for that person’s personal benefit but rather, to distribute in accordance with a Will or some other written or verbal instructions (ie. a secret trust), the issue of trust becomes paramount.
What if the beneficiary does not distribute the asset as the deceased intended but keeps it for herself? For the litigation lawyer, it may be a serious challenge to prove a breach of trust on behalf of disappointed beneficiaries. The designated beneficiary can simply take the position that she has received all right, title and interest in the asset. If the designated beneficiary is herself named executor of the deceased’s estate, there may well be some legitimate questions as to whether she was expected to distribute the asset in accordance with the Will. The designation, if contained in the Will, may ideally clarify whether the asset is to be subject to the terms of the Will.
Have a great weekend and we’ll be back on Tuesday, David. ——–