Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences FoundationThunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation

Donate Now Northern Cancer Fund Northern Cardiac Fund Health Sciences Discovery Fund


Marital Status and Your Estate


FREE information session on Marital Status and Your Estate. Feb 15 at 7 p.m. at Chartwell Glacier Ridge, Dining Room. Speakers are Kady Stachiw and Nicole Rea, Associate Lawyers, Rene Larson Law Office.

By Kady Stachiw & Nicole Rea, Associate Lawyers, Rene Larson Law Office - February 4, 2017

Not many people want to contemplate Estate Planning because it means thinking about your own passing.  However, it is important for many reasons.  First and foremost, Estate Planning and having a valid Last Will and Testament will ensure that you have control over who inherits your Estate.  Without a will there are many variables that effect how your Estate is distributed.  A major concern is your marital status at your time of passing.   

In Ontario, the Succession Law Reform Act is the piece of legislation that dictates how your property will be distributed after your death should you die without a will. Without a will, a legally married spouse receives what is called the preferential share, which is the first $200,000.00 of the estate. If you have children, the remainder of the estate is split equally between the married spouse and the children.

In contrast, the Succession Law Reform Act does not recognize common law relationships for the purposes of distribution after death; therefore, if you are in a common law relationship, your common law spouse is entitled to receive nothing from your estate. This means that if the you had no immediate family, a distant blood relative that you may have never even met, would be entitled by law to your estate over your surviving common law spouse.

Legacy Giving Thunder Bay presents – Marital Status and Your Estate

with speakers Kady Stachiw and Nicole Rea, Associate Lawyers, Rene Larson Law Office

Wed, Feb 15 at 7:00 PM

Chartwell Glacier Ridge, Dining Room
Join us for this FREE informative session about marital status and your estate.

R.S.V.P. to Lindsey Wychopen at (807) 684-7106 or

Hosted by: Rene Larson Law Office, Confederation College, Northern Ontario School of Medicine, St. Joseph’s Foundation, Thunder Bay Community Foundation, and Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation

Another twist on this situation is if you are separated but not legally divorced.  If you have entered into a common law relationship but never divorced your first spouse and die without a will, your first spouse would be the one entitled to the preferential share.  Again, your common law spouse would be entitled to receive nothing from your estate.

The best way to provide for the beneficiaries of your choosing is to have a valid Last Will and Testament.  However, you should be aware that there are certain circumstances that may invalidate a Will you have prepared, and it relates to your marital status.  A marriage will revoke a Last Will and Testament, unless the will was prepared in contemplation of marriage.  This means that if you have a will and then get married, the will is revoked by operation of law.  This situation may be of concern if you were widowed and made a new will to provide for your children.  If you remarry later, your will is revoked and your second spouse would take the preferential share, possibly leaving your children with no inheritance.

The bottom line is that life is short and unpredictable.  A mistaken belief in who is legally entitled to inherit is a risk you do not have to take. It is important to meet with your lawyer to discuss your options and have him or her explain to you what the state of the law is with respect to your particular circumstances. Although it is critically important for everyone to have a will in place expressing his or her last wishes, people with unique marital statuses are in an unusual position when it comes to estate planning and estate law, which makes it even more important to have will. If there is one thing you do for your loved ones, make sure that you have a will.

[Click here to view this article as a PDF.]

< back to articles

Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation
980 Oliver Road  |  Thunder Bay, ON, Canada P7B 6V4  |  807 345 4673  |
OUR MISSION: To inspire the people of Northwestern Ontario to give generously to advance our healthcare at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.

Charitable Registration Number: