Estates & Wills & Trusts

Examining issues around predatory marriages

Predatory marriages can cause massive financial and emotional impact for the so-called “victim” and his or her family members, Toronto estates and trusts lawyers Ian M. Hull and Suzana Popovic-Montagn Huffington Post.

“Usually predatory marriage situations involve an elderly individual who has children and is entering into a relationship involving some excitement but the family does not like the new relationship. Such cases are rare, but the facts are often quite sensational,” say Hull and Popovic-Montag, partners with Hull & Hull LLP.

They write that the requirements for the capacity to marry are not as onerous as the capacity required to execute testamentary documents.

“Therefore, theoretically, someone who does not have the requisite capacity to execute a will can have the capacity to marry,” Hull and Popovic-Montag write. “In Ontario, marriage has the effect of revoking a will in most cases. On the other hand, it is important that policy allows for the independence and sanctity of marriage and allows elderly people the right to choose. People can, and do, fall in love at any age.”

They note that the law in British Columbia differs from Ontario in that marriage does not revoke a will, taking the bite out of the financial impact of these types of marriages.

"In Ontario, some law reform in this direction would help alleviate some of the financial impact of this kind of marriage," they write.

Hull and Popovic-Montag touch on common-law spousal relationships, where a claim of common-law relationships may be raised by a friend or caregiver who lived with the deceased and asserts that they were in a spousal relationship.

They write that it is key for the law to keep up with the changing nature of relationships in Canada.

"It is important for legislation to reflect the nature of adult family relationships as they stand today and to reflect the dual goals of protecting the autonomy of older individuals while shielding them from potential abuse,” Hull and Popovic-Montag write. “Ontario can continue to learn from the approaches of other provinces when it comes to addressing emerging and significant problems.”

A recent episode of Hull & Hull TV, also featured on Huffington Post, discusses capacity issues surrounding predatory marriages and includes a lively discussion about the infamous Anna Nicole Smith case.

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