In February we broke down Bill 245, the Accelerating Access to Justice Act and last month the bill received Royal Assent. One of the act’s biggest changes is the repeal of ss. 15(a) and 16 of Ontario’s Succession Law Reform Act (the “SLRA”), meaning that marriage no longer revokes a will.
Marriage and Separation
Sections 15(a) and 16 of the SLRA automatically revoked a will upon marriage. This meant that if you died after getting married, without making a new will, then you died intestate. This provision had long been a topic of debate, with concerns about elderly testators being victimized by predatory marriages, i.e. someone marrying a vulnerable elderly person for the purpose of nullifying their will and gaining access to their estate. Revoking these sections brings Ontario in line with much of the rest of the country.
Other Notable Changes
Virtual witnessing - Virtual witnessing, which was approved at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic with the Emergency Order in 2020, is here to stay. There are remaining concerns about whether the current process for virtual witnessing is efficient enough to be useful.
Saving invalid wills - Ontario previously required strict compliance when executing a will, which resulted in testamentary documents being invalidated for not perfectly complying with these rules, resulting in an intestacy or falling back to a previous will. This act makes Ontario a substantial compliance jurisdiction, allowing defects to be cured if the testator’s intentions were clear.
So, what does this mean?
Now that it’s received Royal Assent, the Accelerating Access to Justice Act has made major changes to estate law in Ontario, overturning hundreds of years of practice in favour of a more modern approach to estates in line with other provinces.