Changes to Ontario Wills: Why Death Won’t Do You Part As It Used To

Now picture this (and maybe it is in fact your life):

You married your university sweetheart, had kids, bought a house, and put down roots.

Somewhere along the way, you and your spouse (rightfully) decided it was time to have Wills drawn up. In the event of your death, you left everything to your spouse, and they, in turn, did the same.

When it came to the art of “adulting,” you did it right. But life doesn’t always go as planned, just look at all the relationships and marriages that didn’t survive the pandemic. You get divorced.

Don’t worry, it’s amicable in this scenario, and you do find love again and remarry. But just when things are looking up for you, you die. Sounds like a lifetime movie, right?

Since getting remarried, you kept telling yourself you would get around to updating your Will, but you never did. So, what does this mean now that your dead and your Will leaves everything to your former spouse?

If the above did happen, the existing Will would immediately become invalid upon your remarriage. This means that if someone dies having remarried but not having updated their Will, the law will invalidate their Will and treat that person’s estate as if they died without having drafted a Will at all. This means that distributions from the deceased’s estate would be made in accordance with Ontario’s Succession Law Reform Act. Payment from the estate would include payment to the new spouse and the deceased’s children.

This all changed on January 1, 2022. *Cue dramatic music*

Now, if you remarry after January 1, 2022, and have a pre-existing Will, that old Will won’t automatically be invalidated by your new marriage. Instead, the Will will be read as if your former spouse had predeceased you. This means that if your Will stated that your children would inherit your assets if your (former) spouse died before you, then your estate would be distributed to your children. This would cut your new spouse out from your estate and make for a very awkward Will reading.  

The above is just one scenario of many when it comes to the complicated world of estate planning. This is why we always recommend reviewing and updating your Will every few years. 

Robin K. Mann, Associate Lawyer