Recent changes to the Succession Law Reform Act (SLRA) that affect marriage and divorce

In Ontario, it used to be that if you made a Will prior to being married, it would be revoked (or invalidated) upon marriage.

Not anymore. Bill 245 Accelerating Access to Justice Act, 2021, which came into effect January 1, 2022, has made a number of changes to the Succession Law Reform Act (SLRA).

Under the new rules, marriage occurring on or after January 1, 2022 does not revoke an existing Will in Ontario. And a Will made before marriage will continue to be valid.

Write a new Will upon marriage

The laws across the Canada are not the same. Deciding which laws apply if the person married in one province and died in another, can be unclear.

The decision as to which law applies becomes even more complicated if a person marries or dies outside of Canada.

To avoid such difficulties, it is best to write a new Will upon marriage, or when entering into a common-law relationship.

How divorce affects your Will

If you get a divorce, your Will is not cancelled. Instead, only the provisions in your Will that refer to your spouse are revoked.

This means that your former spouse will no longer be your executor, trustee or guardian, and any gifts you left to your former spouse will go to someone else. Who the gifts will now go to will depend on the structure of your Will.

Changes to the Succession Law Reform Act (SLRA) and property rights of separated spouses

Wills and the rights of separated spouses have also been affected by changes to the SLRA.

As of January 1, 2022, spouses who have been separated for at least three years, but not divorced, or have a valid separation agreement or court order, are treated the same as divorced spouses under the ex-spouse’s Will. They will no longer benefit from the estate of a deceased.

This means that a separated spouse who has been designated as an estate trustee or a beneficiary in an ex-spouse’s Will is not entitled to the benefits under that Will. Previously, in this situation, unless the spouses had a separation agreement with specific provisions for property rights, the ex-spouse could apply for part of the estate under family law.

Contact us about your Will if you have plans to marry, divorce or become separated

The new changes in legislation regarding Wills can be confusing. As well, every family situation is unique. At HNPC, we’ll sit down with you and go over the details of your own particular situation. We’ll provide our specialized Wills and Estate Planning expertise to ensure that your Will is legally up to date and clearly expresses your wishes.

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