The definition of spouse has evolved dramatically, and can vary depending on the legislation being considered, or the jurisdiction you are in.
Both the Wills, Estates and Successions Act (“WESA”) and the Family Law Act define spouses as two people of any gender who are married to each other, or who have lived together in a marriage like relationship for a period of at least two years. As a result, you can become a spouse without knowing or intending to do so, and this can have a significant impact on your estate.
The status of “spouse” creates an entitlement to family property and, potentially, spousal support, if the parties separate. If one party to spousal relationship dies, the surviving spouse has an entitlement to their estate. This can arise through the distribution provision set out in WESA if a person dies without a will. If there is a will in place that does not provide for the spouse, they have standing to apply to vary the terms of the will.
It is important to understand the implications of being in a spousal relationship, and how the relationship and obligations can arise. In particular, it is important to understand how this relationship will impact your estate, especially in situations where there are children from prior relationships, or other dependant parties. Tools such as wills and cohabitation agreements can help you control how your assets will be distributed, and to protect all parties involved.
Contact the lawyers at Johnston Franklin Bishop today to discuss your estate planning options.