There is a lot of confusion about the rights of a surviving common-law spouse.  Although Canadian law recognizes a common-law relationship in the same manner as a marriage, things can change if the common-law spouse is not mentioned in the Last Will and Testament of the deceased spouse.  In such a case, the surviving spouse literally walks out of the house with their personal belongings and must go to court to have the will altered.  You can go to court if the following conditions are satisfied:

  • you must have been living with your spouse at the time of his or her death, 
  • you must have been living with your spouse in a marriage-like relationship for at least the two previous years, and 
  • the court case must be started within six months of the grant of probate.
The best way to avoid problems is to prepare a new set of Wills and Powers of Attorney in order to ensure that the rights of all parties to the estate are protected.

How terrible! But really you're not protected as a common-law spouse if your partner dies.  If you separate while still alive you can take your Ex to the cleaners pretty much, but if they die before you, you could get nothing.  This actually happened to someone I know.  Her partner was considerably older than her (13 years) and he kicked the bucket without letting her know what he was planning!  Bad Boy!

He had always told her that he had made sure she would be financially well taken care of if he went first - but as it stands, he hadn't really done anything, assuming that it would be spousal roll-over as usual.  That is absolutely not the case unless you are legally married.  If you are not named as beneficiary on investments and property and if there is no mention of you in the "will", you really don't exist.

Sound familiar? Take action, make sure that if it's you, you know with absolute certainty what will happen, and if it's someone you know pay it forward.

How does someone who is making nearly $150,000 per year go broke?  I think you really have to try hard.  Sometimes people just don't take action fast enough, it's denial, and by the time reality sinks in, it is usually pretty late in the game.  The worst part about it is that it is so very hard for them to face up to the fact that they are responsible.  Secondly, they don't know who to talk to about it and are embarrassed getting help - they don't really want to tell their friends, so how can they get a referral for someone they can trust?

It's hard, and I've seen it take a huge toll on relationships, but it can be done, and any relationship that can survive this will be stronger and better for it.

If you know of someone who is in this position, advise them to start using cash only for as much of their spending as possible - put away all the credit and debit cards.  Systematic and consistent work can take the problem away.  BTW, my email door is always open and I am willing to help at no cost, no strings attached - I've been through it too, and I am hap
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