Can Ontario Spouses Stop the Sale of an Estate Home?

Are you like Marko? His spouse, Anna, died but did not mention him in her will.

Marko asked my office for a meeting with me. I spoke with him on the phone before we met. I needed to know if I could help him. Otherwise, I would refer him to someone who could.

I offered Marko a 45-minute meeting at a cost of $375, but before we set up the meeting, I asked Marko if I could ask him some questions. He agreed.

“Marko, are you a married spouse or a common law spouse?”

“What’s the difference? We have been together for 24 years in the same house. Who do you think paid all the bills and mortgages?”

I replied, “I know you feel married, but in Ontario there is a legal difference. Let me explain.”

Ontario Married Spouses Have Matrimonial Homes

I said, “If you’re married and the home is ordinarily used as a residence for your family, it is a matrimonial home. You then have certain rights to the property.

If you’re a common law spouse — no matter how many years you lived together — you do not live in a matrimonial home.

As a common law spouse, you have no property interest in the home — unless you’re a registered owner.

If you’re not a registered owner, you must hire lawyers to protect your rights. This means you need an estate lawyer since Anna has passed away.
Courts can give you an interest in the property. I help people like you if they are not registered owners. A court can stop sales by estate executors.”

Marko asked, “How can I get an interest in property now that Anna has died?”

“I can apply to the court for you. You may need support as a dependant. Or you could get an order declaring you have an interest in Anna’s property.

If you’re a registered owner of the property, you have extra rights to enforce from your deed.

Do you know if you’re a registered owner of the property? I can do a title search. This’ll confirm if you’re, perhaps, a joint owner.”

“My name shows up on the property tax bill. I pay the taxes and mortgage. Isn’t that proof I am an owner?” Marko asked.

“No,” I said. “Do you have a copy of the transfer when you purchased the property?” I asked.

Joint Ownership Has Disadvantages

“Now that you mention it, I recall our lawyer told us we should be joint owners. Doesn’t joint ownership mean I did not need a will to inherit?” Marko asked. “My half of the property would go directly to Anna if I died. Doesn’t that apply now since Anna has died?”

“Yes,” I said, “so long as Anna had not transferred or severed the joint ownership to the home. I can check that also.”

Marko asked, “How could she transfer or sever the joint ownership without my knowledge or permission?”

“That’s a very good question, Marko. Anna did not have to have your consent.

A joint owner can sever the joint tenancy. I must also ask if you ever signed a cohabitation agreement or a joint venture contract. Do you recall signing such an agreement?”

Marko said, “Anna’s children asked us to sign some papers. I don’t know if they have severed the property using her power of attorney. Is that possible?”

Find out what I told Marko in my next post.

Do you need legal advice about jointly owned property?

Contact Ed today.