Survivorship in Relation to Estates

In some cases, two persons die at the same time in circumstances wherein one cannot ascertain who died first. This can create issues for their respective estates; for instance, in the event one was a beneficiary of the other’s estate. In most cases, professionally prepared wills foresee the potential problem and provide for alternative beneficiaries.

However, if there is no named alternative beneficiary in a will or if the will is not applicable, section 55 of the Succession Law Reform Act, R.S.O. 1990 (“SLRA”) applies. Section 55 provides that were two or more persons die at the same time or in circumstances in which it is not possible to determine who died first, the property of each person is to be disposed of as if he or she had survived the other(s).

Where the people who die are joint owners of a home, each person is deemed to have held his or her interest as a tenant-in-common. The interest of each person therefore becomes a part of his or her estate and is distributed accordingly.

In the case of insurance proceeds, unless the contract of insurance or declaration states otherwise if a beneficiary and insured die at the same time (or if it is not possible to determine who died first), the proceeds are payable as if the beneficiary predeceased the insured. Where there is a surviving beneficiary, he or she receives the proceeds and if there is no surviving beneficiary, the proceeds are payable to the insured’s estate.

As always, if you are a beneficiary or estate trustee faced with a survivorship issue, it would be prudent to seek legal advice. Thanks for reading,

Jason

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