Ontario Estate Law Updates

By Tina Tehranchian

The Ontario government recently passed new legislation which has introduced several amendments to Ontario’s estate law landscape. The new rules on virtual signing and gifts to minors are already in effect, while the remaining provisions will take place in 2022.

Virtual Signing

The good news is that virtual signing is now a permanent option for Wills and Powers of Attorney. While this was initially introduced as a temporary solution to COVID-19 restrictions, it will remain in effect permanently. This means that you must no longer be in the same room as the people who are witnessing you sign your Will. Instead, you can use an electronic method to see, hear, and communicate with one another in real time. However, your lawyer must still be one of the witnesses.

Gifts to Minors

In the past, a minor was not able to receive a gift or inheritance over $10,000 without a guardian of property. A child’s parent is not automatically their guardian of property and a formal appointment through the courts is required, which can cause delays and results in legal costs. The new legislation increases the maximum amount that a minor can receive to $35,000.

Substantial Compliance

Currently a Will in Ontario is only considered valid if it meets all required legal rules. This means that, even if your Will clearly captures your intentions, a court may decide it is invalid due to a minor error, such as missing a witness’ signature. The new legislation gives courts the ability to overlook these errors, so long as your Will adequately sets out your intentions. This change, known as “substantial compliance,” is already the law in most provinces and is intended to protect your wishes in the case of any insignificant error(s) in your Will.

Marriage

If you are a resident of Ontario, when you get married your Will is automatically revoked and considered invalid. The new legislation repeals this rule and will allow your Will to remain in place after marriage. This will help protect individuals who are vulnerable and/or elderly, from being exploited under the current system.

Separation

Under the new rules, separated spouses are no longer entitled to inheritance from each other, and, if they are the executor of their ex-spouse’s will, that appointment will automatically be revoked. This previously applied only to spouses who are formally divorced but now extends to include spouses who are separated. Spouses who have been living apart for three years as a result of the breakdown of their marriage, are considered “separated”. These new rules will take effect sometime in 2022 but will apply even if the Will was made before that day.

Tina Tehranchian, MA, CFP®, CLU®, CHFC®, MFA-PTM (Philanthropy) is a FP CanadaTM Fellow and a Senior Wealth Advisor at Assante Capital Management Ltd. in Richmond Hill Ontario. She can be reached at (905) 707 5220 or through her website at www.tinatehranchian.com.

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