In the Summer 2008 edition of Your Estate Matters, we reported on the trial decision of Pickets v. Hall, a case involving a large estate ($18 million) and common law spouses. One year later, the BC Court of Appeal allowed the appeal by Ms. Picketts and varied the trial judge’s order to provide her with $5 million, among other things.
The Court of Appeal held that the status of a relationship (married vs. common law) is not determinative of the strength of the moral claim that may be made. Even though Ms. Picketts’s legal rights as a common law spouse were much narrower in the family law context (for example, under the Family Relations Act), her moral claim as a common law spouse under the Wills Variation Act was strong in the particular circumstances. It was also noted that had the testator died intestate, Ms. Picketts would have received 1/3 of the estate under the Estate Administration Act. Finally, the Court noted that the trial judge’s decision resulted in a disposition which substantially preferred the moral claims of the testator’s adult independent children to those of his long-term, caring and dedicated spouse, Ms. Picketts. The Court of Appeal said that it could not approve of such an order.
The deceased’s sons sought leave to appeal the Court of Appeal’s decision to the Supreme Court of Canada. Earlier this year, that application was denied.