Challenging a Will in BC: Moral Obligations Threshold Test
Considering Cases: Separated Spouses against Life Long Friends
Tippett v Tippett Estate, 2015 BCSC 291
At the Kushner Law Group, we strive to make sure our clients understand new and interesting developments in the law to make sure they are well advised about the potential outcomes of their cases. In the case considered below the Court was required to consider the moral claim of separated spouse against the wishes of a testator who left most of his estate to his friends. If you believe that you have been wrongfully left out of a will or have not been properly provided for, contact the Kushner Law Group to schedule a complimentary consultation.
Facts Challenging the Will
The Plaintiff Rosalie May Tippett sought to vary the will of her ex-husband Henry Wayne Tippett, who died in 1991 pursuant to the Wills Variation Act. Ms. Tippett claimed that her ex-husband failed his moral obligations to her by not adequately provide for her in his will.
The parties were married for twenty years before their separation in 2009. They maintained a happy relationship until it began to deteriorate due to difficulties arising from Mr. Tippett’s struggle with ALS, which he was diagnosed with in 2000. Ms. Tippett argued that she provided extensive care to Mr. Tippett throughout his illness, which continued after she left the home in 2009. After their separation, Ms. Tippett gave $1,000 a month in spousal support to her ex-husband. The defendants claimed that after Ms. Tippet left in 2009 they collectively provided care, company, and assistance to Mr. Tippett, which formed the basis of his decision to include them in his will.
Ms. Tippett believed that she should have received a 70% interest in the total value of the estate. However, Mr. Tippett only left the contents inside their matrimonial home, his vehicles, and the funds in his savings account to Ms. Tippett
He left his interest in the matrimonial home and the remainder of the estate to his sister and the funds remaining in his investment account to ten of his friends.
Analysis: the Moral Obligations Threshold Test
The court held that the Wills Variation Act provides the primary guidance for determining whether or not a testator has fulfilled the moral obligations owed to his spouse. The threshold test is whether or not he made adequate provisions for the proper maintenance and support of his spouse. The court found that Mr. Tippett did not fulfill his moral obligations to his ex-wife for the following reasons:
- The parties had lived a happy life together for 23 years and accumulated most of the wealth contained in the estate during that time, and
- Tippet had an expectation that she would receive his interest in their matrimonial home by means of the joint tenancy and they seemed to have a long understanding that Ms. Tippett would own the home after his death.
Conclusion: Court Ordered Will Variation
While Mr. Tippett clearly wanted to thank his friends for their assistance during his illness, he still owed an obligation to Ms. Tippett to recognize her long-standing interest in their home. Therefore, the court ordered that his will be varied to provide Ms. Tippett with 50% of the net value of the estate.