When a person gets a divorce, it is important to modify his or her estate plan accordingly. In particular, attention should be paid to an existing Will, life insurance, pension and RRSP policies, as well as any existing power of attorney documents.

Modifying a Will after Divorce

Most people who have created a Will while married leave a significant part of their Estate to their spouse. If you get divorced but die before creating a new Will or modifying an existing Will, the laws of Ontario automatically revoke some of the provisions of your existing Will.

In particular, divorce revokes any disposition of real or personal property (including money) made to a former spouse, as well as the appointment of a former spouse as the Estate Trustee.

After Separation

You must be
legally divorced for these rules to have any effect. If you are separated but have not obtained a divorce, the provisions in your Will are still applicable. It is advisable that a Testator create a new Will soon after separation, especially if there is little or no chance of reconciliation. In order for spouses to protect themselves between separation and the creation of a new Will, the separation agreement, if any, should specifically renounce the entitlements that each spouse has made in their respective Wills. Please consult a family law lawyer for more information.

In addition to changing your Will, after becoming separated a Testator should determine whether any other legal documents need to be changed. For example, a
Continuing Power of Attorney for Property, Power of Attorney for Personal Care and the beneficiary designation for an RRSP, life insurance policy or pension plan should be changed accordingly. This is especially important because separation agreements that attempt to renounce entitlements to benefits under a life insurance plan, for example, may not be recognized by a court.

For more information please
contact us.