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Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Changes to Ontario wills law this month

There are some important changes to Ontario wills law this month. Beginning on January 1, 2022, in Ontario, getting married no longer revokes your will. Ontario is not the first Canadian province to make this change, nor is it the last. 

The change is not retroactive. It only applies to weddings that took place from January 1, 2022 onwards. If you were married before then, your will was still revoked when you got married. 

Another change involves spouses who are separated but not yet divorced. It used to be that no matter how long you were separated, you still had full inheritance rights of a spouse if you were not divorced. That gave rise to really odd situations where people were separated for 10 or 20 years or more and hadn't seen each other in all that time, but still inherited from the other one's estate. That's different now. The new law says that if you have been separated for three years, you lose your automatic right of inheritance from a spouse. You will also lose that right if you have been separated for less than three years but you have a formal separation agreement or a court order of separation.

The changes regarding former spouses are pretty profound. Let's say you are married but have been separated for five years. While you were together, your spouse named you the executor of the will and left the estate to you. The will has not been revoked or replaced by your spouse. Because you have been separated for more than three years, the will provisions won't apply to you anymore. You won't be the executor anymore and you won't receive the items under the will.

No doubt it will take some time for everyone to adjust to the new provisions but I believe they are a step in the right direction.

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