If there was any doubt about the limited right of disappointed adult children to make claim against their parents’ estate in Ontario, it has been removed by the Ontario Court of Appeal in the recent decision of Verch Estate 2014 ONCA 338 (CanLII).
After reviewing the case law history, the court has confirmed that adult children who are cut out of their parents’ Will have no claim upon any moral ground whatsoever. This is consistent with most other provinces but in sharp contrast to the situation in British Columbia where moral claims are brought as a matter of course. The Ontario situation is once again clear but many disappointed beneficiaries may view the BC situation as fairer.
There do remain some legal arguments to be made in Ontario by disappointed adult children. For example, if the adult was a dependent at the time of the adult parent’s death a claim could be made for support under the dependent’s relief provisions of theSuccession Law Reform Act R.S.O. 1990, c S.26 – what is called Part V. Other claims that could be mounted would be for services rendered for the deceased parents (quantum merit) or for trusts created based on past intentions and behavior of the parents. For the truly courageous, it may also be possible to argue proprietary estoppelbased on some type of promise in the past by the parent which was detrimentally relied upon the by the adult child.
The Verch decision comes as no surprise to Ontario lawyers. The Court of Appeal saw an opportunity to weed out moral claims and stem a growing tide of estate litigation.
Now, more than ever, adult claimants find themselves having to put forward sophisticated legal claims and experienced counsel in this field is recommended.