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Domestic Contracts and Family Law Planning

A wide variety of family law considerations need to be taken into account in every estate plan.

Various legal structures can be used to protect assets in the event of separation or divorce. In Ontario, there are major differences in the law for division of property between married spouses and those who are not married.

Legally married couples or couples who plan to marry can enter into a Marriage Contact in which they define their future rights and expectations about how their assets will be divided in the event of separation, divorce, or death. Individuals who live together but who do not marry can complete a Cohabitation Agreement that can also modify or define the legal rules that will apply to their relationship when it ends.

Our Estates Group chair, Michael Prsa, has an extensive background in family law and the completion of Marriage Contracts and Cohabitation Agreements.

Parents may also wish to protect the assets that they leave to their children or other beneficiaries from being divided with the beneficiary’s spouse in the event of a breakdown in the beneficiary’s marital relationship.

Our estate lawyers can help you structure the gift or inheritance to protect the gift or inheritance from claims by the beneficiary’s spouse.

Feb 03, 2014 | Case Study

Providing for Dependents in Blended Families

The Problem Our client has two adult children from his first marriage. He also has two more children with his second wife. When he married, he own...

Dec 17, 2014 | Presentation

Family Law Considerations in an Estate Plan

Estate planning involves the transfer of wealth to family, friends and charity in an efficient and effective manner. In many cases, the efficiency goal requires a review of various tax minimization, tax avoidance or tax deferral strategies. Indeed, tax considerations are an integral and important part of any estate plan.

For an estate plan to be effective, it is also important to have an understanding of the client’s goals and priorities and to advance them within the relevant legal framework. A wide variety of legal considerations need to be taken into account in every case. It is beyond the scope of this paper to address all such considerations.

This paper is focussed on family law considerations and how family law rules impact how an estate is allocated and structured. While family law rules can result in claims being made against an estate, family law can also be used to protect assets. The extent to which specific family law rules will apply will often depend on the marital status of the client and his or her beneficiaries as well as the location, nature and extent of assets owned by the client and where the client and the beneficiaries reside. 

Failure to collect all of the relevant information and to understand and deal with family law rules will likely lead to unintended consequences, costly litigation and delays in the administration of an estate and disappointed beneficiaries.

The summary of family law considerations in this paper is for individuals who reside in Ontario. Individuals who have a multi-jurisdiction estate or non-resident beneficiaries also need to address the relevant legal considerations in other relevant jurisdictions. Since this paper is being presented to non-lawyers, the paper does not exhaustively cover all legal considerations. The goal of this paper is to raise general awareness. This summary is provided for information and education purposes only. You should not rely on this summary as legal advice. Specific advice should be sought in each case.

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