There are some significant changes that have recently occurred to estate law in Ontario. Some of the changes are a welcome evolution to the digital world in which we now live while others are meant to “tighten up” older legislation deemed no longer be ideal. Here are the most important points to update you on.
Virtual Signing and Remote Witnessing
Virtual signing was allowed temporarily as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic but will now become a permanent option for the legal profession. This new reform requires that a witness be present (either physically or virtually) with the testator when signing. In our minds, this is positive progress as it allows a more convenient way to sign legal documents as well as minimize the impact of geography when working with a legal professional.
Marriage no longer automatically revokes a Will
Previously, if you got married, your Will would automatically become invalid. This is no longer the case. Although Wills can continue to be valid after marriage, it is nevertheless important to address your estate plan as life events occur. An event such as marriage can have a significant impact on many areas of your planning and as a result, we recommend you re-address your estate documents at that time.
Separated Spouses no longer have any default Property Rights
Prior to these new rules being introduced, if you were separated but not divorced, the separated spouse could claim some entitlement to a deceased’s estate. With the recent change, this is no longer the case as long as the following applies:
1/ The couple were living apart for at least 3 years
2/ There was a valid separation agreement in place.
Spousal Rights when One has Passed Away Intestate (without a Will)
Under the previous rules, if a person died without having a Will, the first $200,000 of their estate went to their spouse. This amount has been increased to $350,000. The remainder would be allocated with one half going to the surviving spouse and the other half to the children of the deceased. This is another reason we strongly recommend all clients have wills.
Validating a Will or Power of Attorney with Technical Errors
Before this change, if there was a technical error with a Will or Power of Attorney, the document would be deemed invalid, and the intestacy rules would apply. This is no longer the case. These documents can now be “saved”, and the estate distributed as the deceased intended.
We hope this summary is a useful and straightforward guide to these important changes that have been put in place. Should you have any questions please feel free to contact us at any time.
Assante Capital Management Ltd. Is a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund and is registered with the investment industry Regulatory Organization of Canada.
This material is provided for general information and is subject to change without notice. Every effort has been made to compile this material from reliable sources however no warranty can be made as to its accuracy or completeness. Before acting on any of the above, please make sure to see a professional advisor for individual financial advice based on your personal circumstances.