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Monday, March 7, 2022

Does a mother have an obligation to leave her deceased daughter's share of the estate to the daughter's husband?

There are so many new, interesting cases these days that I can't possibly blog about all of them. However, this one caught my eye because it addresses an issue that I hear about pretty often. This is the case of MacCallum v. Langille Estate, which was recently dealt with by the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal.

In this case, Cora Langille made a will leaving the residue of her estate to her daughter (Shirley), her niece and her grandson. As it turns out, Shirley died before her mother did. Shirley had cancer and knew she would likely not outlive her mother. Shirley wrote Cora, from whom she was estranged for some time, a letter asking her to give her share to her husband, Claude. Cora didn't change  her will. After Cora died, Claude applied to the court to challenge the will to receive the share that Shirley would have received if she had lived. Claude's main point was that Cora was under a moral obligation to leave him Shirley's share. 

Claude lost at trial, then lost again on appeal.

The judges were pretty clear on the fact that Cora had no legal or moral obligation to leave anything to her son-in-law.

As I mentioned, I do hear a lot of questions surrounding what happens to the share of an adult child when the child predeceases a parent. Many people wonder whether the child's share goes to the child's spouse. As this case makes clear, it does not go to the spouse unless the will says so.

There are some legal obligations to spouses that cannot be overlooked when making a will. Cora, for example, would have to consider her own spouse, if she had one. Her spouse would be her dependent automatically because of the marital relationship. But she has no legal obligation to anyone else's spouse, including her daughter's husband.

Claude relied heavily on what he called a moral obligation, saying that Cora should have followed Shirley's letter and left Claude the share. In fact, he suggested that the court should focus not on the law but on making a "fair" decision. In other words, anything that did not give him a share of the estate wasn't fair, regardless of what the law says. Given that he was in a COURT OF LAW, it maybe isn't surprising that the judges decided to follow the law.

Anyone who wishes to read the case may do so by clicking here.

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