I was traipsing thru some estate journals and articles recently and I stumbled upon the reporting of a recent matrimonial case which gave me pause, and to many practitioners in estate and matrimonial matters, I am sure.
Practitioners have long held the view that entitlement to spousal support under most matrimonial settlements do not survive the death of the spouse receiving the support. As one Justice noted in a recent case in Saskatchewan, “The obligation to pay spousal support is ended when the beneficiary of that support dies. The concept is just basic common sense…. There appears to be no juristic or moral reason to continue the obligation in the absence of any need.”
That is until very recently!
In the facts of Re Marasse Estate (Alberta) decided in November, 2017, approximately 3 months after spousal payments began as agreed to between the parties to a separation agreement, the spouse receiving support payments died. Only a few payments out of the total required were made. Remarkably, the estate of the deceased spouse applied for the balance of spousal support payments.
Consistent with previous jurisprudence in this area, the paying spouse argued that the obligation to pay spousal support ended when the recipient spouse passed away.
Nevertheless, the Court held that the agreement between the parties created a basis to continue support for the following reasons:
(1) There was a clause in the agreement providing that the terms of the agreement could be exercised by the parties’ heirs, executors, etc.
(2) There were no clauses which set out events or matters, financial or otherwise which might lead to a change in terms or obligations thereof.
(3) The agreement was comprehensive as to distribution of property, personal and matrimonial.
For these reasons primarily, the Court declared that the payer spouse’s obligation for payment to the estate of the deceased payee spouse under the Agreement would continue in full.
I am looking forward to reading more about this and its impact on matrimonial settlements. In the meantime, just out of interest, mention this case to a colleague or a friend and ask for a reaction. You will be interested in the results.