Pedrozo v. Hope, 2020 BCSC 1578

In this interesting case, the former spouse of the deceased sued his estate for breach of a family law separation agreement made between the parties while the deceased was alive.

The female claimant and the deceased had been married for 9 years before separating. The deceased was significantly older than the claimant. The claimant had a 4-year-old son from a previous relationship and brought him into the marriage.

The separation agreement entered into by the parties and filed with the Court provided that the deceased would pay the claimant an amount for spousal support and child support for a set period of time. To secure payment of those amounts in case of his death, the agreement required the deceased to maintain a life insurance policy in the amount of $250,000 naming the claimant as beneficiary.

While the deceased duly maintained a life insurance policy in the amount of $250,000, he named his children from a prior relationship as beneficiaries, not the claimant.

The deceased paid spousal and child support payments as required, but died unexpectedly. At the time of his death, he remained obligated to pay spousal and child support as per the agreement. Had he named the claimant as the beneficiary of the life insurance policy as required by the agreement, she would have received $250,000. When the claimant learned that she was not, in fact, the named beneficiary of the policy, she sued the deceased’s Estate.

At the hearing, which proceeded by way of summary trial, the deceased’s son, in his capacity as Executor of the deceased’s Estate, argued that the claimant was only entitled to the balance of spousal and child support owing for the remainder of the term set out in the separation agreement. This amounted to less than $80,000 and had, incidentally, already been paid to the claimant. As such, the parties were arguing over whether the claimant was entitled to a further $170,000.

In ruling in favour of the claimant, the Court found that the claimant would have received $250,000 but for the deceased’s breach of the separation agreement. This was the clear and final intention of both parties when they entered into the agreement following much deliberation involving senior counsel and a professional mediator. It would be manifestly inequitable to arrive at any other result.