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January 24, 2022

Disinheriting family members can be tough to do

Many Canadians would be surprised to learn they don’t always have the last word when it comes to decisions about who inherits their money.

Will In certain circumstances, lawyers report, the courts are becoming more sympathetic to the rights of estranged family members who’ve been cut out of a will.

Essentially, they’re saying that you can’t, for instance, simply cut one of your kids out of your estate plan unless you have a really good reason.

In some provinces a disinherited child always has the right to set aside the will and ask for a share, even if that child is adult and independent. That is true in British Columbia and Newfoundland, for example. It is not true in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario, explains Winnipeg lawyer John Poyser.

And, in some instances, an inequitable distribution of assets can be a problem as well.

In many cultures, for instance, it’s considered acceptable to leave the bulk of an estate to male children. That’s why, while one father loved his son and duaghter equally, he left all of his assets to his son. Is this legal?

Certainly, explains Toronto lawyer Charles B. Wagner, on his Canadianestatelawblog. But it all depends on where you live. 

The legality of a father’s will may depend on which province’s law applies. In British Columbia, there’s a very good chance that Samantha would succeed and the Court would order the estate be split equally.

If Ontario law applied and there were no other legal issues raised concerning the validity of the will then Samantha would have a less likely chance to win, Wagner suggests.  

Have you been disinherited? Did you fight back? Were you successful in your challenge?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...