Changes to Estate Litigation: Spouses & Separation

Family Law
Wills, Spouses, & Separation: Changes to BC Family Law & Estate Litigation Law

Family Law and estate litigation have both undergone significant changes in recent years here in British Columbia with the introduction of the Family Law Act on March 18, 2013 and the

Wills, Estates and Succession Act (“WESA”) which came into force on March 31, 2014.  These two new pieces of legislation were both intended to modernize litigation in their respective fields and they are intended to work in concert.


The Wills, Estate and Succession Act made a number of changes with  respect to the validity of wills, the definition of “spouse”  and in determining how to treat a separated spouse when a new will has not yet been made. This post will cover three of the many changes introduced by WESA:

Three changes introduced by WESA

1) Validity of Wills – Prior to the introduction of WESA, the act of getting married had the effect of nullifying a will made prior to the marriage. This is no longer the case. When a marriage occurs after a will has been drafted, that will still remains valid.

2) Definition of the Spouse – The introduction of WESA now ensures that the law treats both common law and married spouses equally. The definition of spouse is found in section 2 of WESA and it mirrors the definition found in the Family Law Act. It states that two persons are considered spouses for the purposes of the Act if they were both alive immediately before a relevant time and were married or if they had lived together in a marriage-like relationship for at least two years.

3) Effect of Separation – WESA also changed the effect of separation with respect to the interpretation of a will. Section 56 of WESA provides that if a gift was made to a spouse in the Will and then a separation occurred prior to the will-maker’s death, the gift is revoked and it will be as if the surviving spouse had pre-deceased the will-maker. This is a significant change to the law.

Related Information:

When to Contact Estate Litigation & Family Law Lawyers

If you are a beneficiary to a will or a spouse or adult child and you believe that you have not been properly provided for in the will of a recently deceased person, please call the Kushner Law Group at 604-629-0432 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.


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