It goes without saying that farmers and all adults should have a precise and up-to-date will, as well as other agreements in place at all times.
A 2012 family law case in Ontario illustrates this point. Ronald Carrigan had been separated from his wife for 12 years when he died unexpectedly at the age of 57.
At the time of his death, Ronald was in an eight-year common-law relationship with Jennifer Quinn. He left an estate valued at $2.4 million to his first wife and their two daughters.
He also had not changed the names of his pension beneficiaries. Therefore, the original wife and the two daughters received his death benefits.
Other stories from After the Farm, The Senior Side edition:
Snowbirds must watch the calendar
Remarriages affects farm succession
Two women made grey divorce a little less grey
Woman stayed with abusive husband for love of a farm
Jennifer Quinn appealed the pension payout, and after three separate hearings producing three very different results she received a lump sum payment of $750,000.
If this would have been what Ronald Carrigan wanted, no one will ever know with certainty.
“It was a catastrophe,” said lawyer Steven Benmor in the article “Grey divorce is all about the math” by Jennifer Brown in Canadian Lawyer March 2, 2015. “The takeaway is when the Mr. Carrigans of the world walk into your office for a grey divorce, shake him and say, ‘buddy, don’t die without taking care of everything.’ ”
Do a co-habitation agreement with your spouse and do a proper separation agreement with your ex — lock it up. Get the wills done and everything you have to do — you don’t want to be looking down from heaven and seeing what happened to the Carrigan family.”