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    Does a parent have a moral obligation to provide for his adult children in his/her will?

    Albert Verch died in 2008. He left his entire estate, assessed at over $950,000, to his daughter-in-law. The daughter and Verch’s son separated shortly after Verch’s death. Verch’s son and daughter were left out of the will. The children challenged the Will claiming that their father had a moral obligation to provide for them in his will.

    The Ontario Superior Court of Justice and the Court of Appeal in Verch v. Weckwerth ([2014] O.J. No. 2092) disagreed and limited the moral obligation to dependants. While the issue of a parent’s obligation to provide adequate support to dependants is dealt with under the Succession Law Reform Act, the act does not provide any inheritance rights to adult independent children. The children’s claim in Verch was based on a BC Supreme Court decision in Tataryn v. Tataryn Estate ([1993] S.C.J. No. 65) which found that “while the moral claim of independent adult children may be more tenuous, a large body of case law exists suggesting that, if the size of the estate permits and in the absence of circumstances which negate the existence of such an obligation, some provision for such children should be made”. The Ontario Court of Appeal rejected this approach and refused to apply the BC ruling to Ontario. The court held that the adult children have no claim for support under the Ontario Succession Law Reform Act while BC’s Wills Variation Act does not exclude adult independent children from making a claim against a will. Therefore, the Court of Appeal held that the BC ruling cannot be relied upon by Verch’s children in support of their claim. This means that in Ontario, the testator (still) has the freedom to decide who will be included in his will and can decide not to provide for independent children. The courts should not intervene on a moral basis. I was told the decision will be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada. Updates to follow.

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    Posted By: Timothy J. Grieve of Merovitz Potechin LLP

    Partner

    When it comes to sophisticated estate and succession planning, Tim Grieve is noted for his attention to detail, his ability to analyze complex situations, and his knack for explaining legal scenarios to his clients in everyday language. Tim thoroughly understands the needs of high net worth clients, entrepreneurs and professionals. His practice includes wills, trusts and estates, business and corporate law, franchising, commercial real estate and not-for-profit corporations.

    Tim is one of the founding members of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners Ottawa branch and is the chair of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (Canada).

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