Careful estate planning key for common law couples
While common law relationships may closely resemble legal marriages, when one spouse dies, the surviving partner can be left in a vulnerable position if proper planning is not in place, Toronto estates and trusts lawyers Ian M. Hull and Suzana Popovic-Montag write on Huffington Post. Read Huffington Post
“One key distinction is that under Ontario’s Family Law Act, on the death of a married spouse, the survivor may elect for an equalization of net family property. Essentially, he or she can choose to divide property in a divorce-like fashion rather than to accept what he or she might be entitled to under the deceased’s will or what he or she might receive under the laws of intestacy. This right is not available to surviving common law spouses,” say Hull and Popovic-Montag, partners with Hull & Hull LLP.
“A domestic contract or cohabitation agreement in writing can be a useful tool for delineating the rights of each spouse towards the other’s estate. These agreements can be entered into before cohabitation begins, or at any time during the relationship. The agreement can be updated as the circumstances of the parties evolve and the relationship grows and changes,” they explain.
A recent episode of Hull & Hull TV, also featured on Huffington Post, focuses on the distinctions between the rights of married spouses and common law spouses in Ontario and the importance of a careful and current estate plan to adequately protect the surviving spouse.