Digest of the Week | Intestate Succession

Digest of the Week | Intestate Succession

Court considers "marriage-like relationship" under s. 2(1)(b) of WESA



Connor Estate | 2017 BCSC 978 | British Columbia Supreme Court


Estates -- Intestate succession -- Inheritance by spouse -- Common law spouse


Deceased C was 65 years old at time of her death and had been in intimate and sexual relationship with applicant for 21 years -- Applicant had been married to another woman for most of relationship but had instigated separation in March 2012 and concluded divorce proceedings in March 2015 -- Applicant and C remained in relationship -- C died in March 2015 -- C left her RRSP to applicant but will was not found -- C had told applicant and several other people she was leaving most of her estate to him -- Deceased’s aunt claimed applicant and deceased were together as couple for more than 20 years -- C’s friends saw them as couple for many years and provided affidavits stating so -- Applicant brought application for declaration that he was C’s "spouse" under Wills, Estates and Succession Act (WESA) -- Application granted -- Applicant and C were spouses within meaning of s. 2 of WESA -- Although unusual, it was possible for person who dies without will to leave behind two or even more persons who might qualify as "spouse" under WESA for purposes of intestate estate distribution -- That applicant was in marriage and not separated from his wife did not mean that it was not legally possible for applicant and C to have marriage-like relationship until that separation -- It was not legal impossibility to have two co-existing marriage-like relationships that are recognized by court -- While it was correct to say that person who is not legally divorced does not have legal capacity to enter into common-law marriage, such capacity is not pre-requisite for statutorily contemplated "marriage-like relationship" referred to in s. 2(1)(b) of WESA -- That applicant and C did not live together and kept separate finances might militate against finding of "marriage-like relationship" but there were many other factors that supported relationship existing -- Evidence supporting claim of relationship was uncontroverted and overwhelming and established that applicant and C loved and cared deeply about each other, and that had loving and intimate relationship for more than 20 years that was far more than any type of friendship -- Evidence supported applicant’s claim that he would have liked to share home with C after his separation from his wife, but was unable to do so because of her hoarding illness -- Applicant and C loved each other, were faithful to each other and considered themselves to be husband and wife -- As part of relationship, C assisted applicant financially and intended to bestow upon him benefits of both her financial resources while alive and her estate upon her death -- That C designated applicant as beneficiary of her RRSP was significant.
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