Ontario Superior Court awards partner share in the estate despite the absence of marriage

The testator drafted his will contemplating marriage to his partner

Ontario Superior Court awards partner share in the estate despite the absence of marriage

In a recent decision, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled that an individual is entitled to a quarter share of the residue of her partner's estate, even though they were not married.

The dispute in Mohapel v. Young, 2024 ONSC 1332 involved Iva Mohapel’s application for an equal share of the residue of Edward Michael Young's estate against Douglas Michael Charles Young, the estate trustee. The dispute centred on the interpretation of clauses 4(e) and 4(f) of the deceased’s will, which provided differing directions based on the ownership of a primary residence by Mohapel and the deceased at the time of his death.

The court noted that Edward drafted his will contemplating marriage with Mohapel. However, at the time of his death, they were unmarried, lived in separate residences, and did not share any ownership interest in a primary residence.

The executor, Douglas, contended that Mohapel was not entitled to a share of the estate’s residue, arguing that Mohapel’s separate ownership of a primary residence disqualified her under clause 4(f). However, the court found that the true intent of the will, as expressly outlined in clause 4(e), granted Mohapel an equal share since she and Young did not share ownership of a primary residence at the time of his death.

The Superior Court underscored the necessity to discern the testator’s actual intentions from the will itself, employing the “armchair rule” to construe the will in the light of surrounding facts and circumstances. This approach led the court to conclude that the estate’s residue was intended to be equally divided among Mohapel and the deceased's children.

Furthermore, the court referenced paragraph 7 of the will, which anticipated Mohapel’s involvement in the disposition of Young’s assets, reinforcing the court’s conclusion that Mohapel was indeed a beneficiary. This instruction was contrasted with another clause that would have provided Mohapel rights to Young’s primary residence had they been cohabitating at the time of his death, which was not the case.

In conclusion, the court granted Mohapel’s application, ordering the estate’s residue to be distributed equally among Mohapel and the deceased's three children.

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