Does this sound familiar?
You and your partner have built a life together. You might own property together and you might have children together. But you never got legally married. You live as common-law partners.
According to the law, common-law relationships are not treated the same as married couples in Ontario. If your common-law partner dies without a will and has not named the surviving partner a beneficiary on their assets, the survivor will be omitted from the estate and all assets will be divided amongst children and the deceased’s family.
In Ontario, when a spouse dies, the other spouse is considered next-of-kin. This is not the same for common-law relationships.
In a common-law relationship, you will not automatically be granted an inheritance if you are not named as a beneficiary on your spouse’s life insurance.
If your partner owns the family home, and your name is not on the home, the house will be given to any children or passed to the deceased’s family. The surviving common-law partner has no right to occupy the home unless the beneficiaries consent.
What happens when your common-law partner dies without a will?
Anything that was jointly owned together, the survivor will become the sole owner. Any assets that omit the survivor’s name, do not automatically transfer to the survivor unless clearly set out in a legal and valid will.
Any assets where only the deceased partner’s name is present will go into the deceased’s estate. This estate will be distributed to the next-of-kin.
Anything that the survivor brought into the relationship or that was purchased solely by the survivor will remain untouched by the deceased’s estate.
Can the surviving partner contest the will?
In the eyes of the law, only people named in the will, a spouse and children can contest a will. According to the law, a common-law partner is not considered a spouse. There are special circumstances to this and the survivor might have recourse to contest the will, but it is always better to plan and prepare by creating a will.
The best course of action is for you and your partner to have a legal, valid will. If you are in a common-law relationship, it is important to understand that the law does not see your relationship the same as a married couple.
Both partners in the relationship should have a will where each of these wills is similar in terms of the division of assets after one of the partners passes away.
If you are in a common-law relationship and you have any questions, please reach out to us. We will be happy to help!
There are no dumb questions, and you must ensure that your best interests are taken care of in one of the biggest financial transactions you will ever make.
To learn more about how we can help you, please contact us.
This article is intended as an informative piece about the subject. It should not be taken as legal advice. We recommend you connect with a real estate lawyer about your specific legal issue.