In Ontario, where a person dies without a valid will, they are said to have died “intestate.” When a person dies intestate, the Ontario Succession Law Reform Act stipulates that the deceased’s spouse is entitled to a “preferential share” of his or her estate. Presently the preferential share is $200,000.00. As such, if the deceased’s estate is worth less than $200,000.00, then his or her spouse will receive the entirety of the estate.

Interestingly, the Succession Law Reform Act defines the term “spouse” as either of two people who are married to each other or who have entered into a void or voidable marriage in good faith. If spouses separate but do not divorce, technically speaking, they are still “spouses” of one another. The result – if your spouse dies intestate, even if you are separated and even if either of you is cohabiting with another person, you will still be entitled to a ‘preferential share’ in your spouse’s estate provided that you have not divorced. This illustrates the importance of having a validly drafted will.