Common-Law Spouses

Experienced Estate Lawyers Helping Common-Law Spouses Plan for the Future

Living in a common-law relationship has become a more and more frequent alternative to getting married. While common-law spouses enjoy many of the same benefits as married spouses, this is not the case in every situation.

Individuals living in common-law relationships should be aware that the definition of “spouse” varies from one area of law to another. As such, if you are in a common-law relationship you may be considered a spouse for the purposes of filing your taxes (since common-law relationships lasting more than one year fall under the definition of “spouse” under the Income Tax Act), however, you may not be recognized as a spouse by other pieces of legislation, such as the Succession Law Reform Act, that may have a significant impact on your rights.

If you are living in a common-law relationship and drafting your will, creating a trust as part of an estate plan, or otherwise planning for your future, it is important to consult with a knowledgeable estates lawyer to understand your rights and how to protect yourself going forward. At Sweatman Law Firm, we have advised many common-law partners and married spouses on their rights in an estates context and have helped them plan for all foreseeable possibilities.

Common-Law Spouses as Beneficiaries

The definition of “spouse” under the Succession Law Reform Act (SLRA) does not include a common-law spouse.

As a result, if you would like your common-law spouse to be a beneficiary in your estate, you must explicitly name them in the will.

In addition, common-law spouses should be aware that in a situation in which a will either does not name them at all, or does not make adequate provisions for them, they will not be able to make an equalization claim under the Family Law Act in the same way that a married surviving spouse can.

In some circumstances, a common-law spouse may be able to make a Dependant’s Relief Claim against the estate of their deceased partner, but this can be challenging and expensive.

Protecting Your Common-Law Spouse

There are a number of ways in which common-law spouses can protect one another and provide for each other, including:

  • Jointly owning real estate;
  • Jointly holding bank accounts with a right of survivorship;
  • Naming each other as beneficiaries on RRSP’s, insurance plans, and pension plans;
  • Specifically naming one another in their wills.

Contact Our Trusts Lawyers for Guidance on How to Protect Yourself and Your Common-Law Spouse

If you would like to understand your legal rights as a common-law spouse and to discuss options available to you to ensure that your spouse will be adequately provided for in the future, contact Sweatman Law Firm online or at 905-337-3307. For your convenience, we have offices located in Oakville, Milton and Georgetown.