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Separation agreements may impact wills for divorcees

Most people assume that an ex-spouse will have no right to their estate once a divorce is finalized, but this is not always the case. Depending on the separation agreement, a spouse may be able to make a claim support on assets from their former partner's estate. It is a good idea for British Columbia individuals to clarify how estates will be handled when drafting a separation agreement and to update wills to reflect the new arrangement.

Often, a person can make a claim against a late ex-spouse's estate. This can be a way of compensating for agreed-upon alimony or obtaining retirement income. This can become legally challenging, particularly if the person does not leave a large number of assets or if the individual has financial obligations and dependants outside of the ex-spouse.

Common-law partners add another unique challenge for estate planners. There are some ways in which spousal obligations can legally differ when there is no official marriage. Some Canadians remain separated from a first spouse for years or even decades, eventually building a household with a new common-law partner. In these cases, explicit wording may be needed in the will to clarify which of these people are to be considered next of kin.

When agreeing to pension splitting or spousal support in a separation agreement, it is a good idea to review the estate planning implications. Divorces or separations that took place years or decades ago should be reviewed by a British Columbia lawyer prior to drafting wills for either party. By making sure all estate planning and family law documents align, divorcees can save their families from estate litigation after they pass away.

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