In February 2012, the Wills and Succession Act was passed in Alberta and with it came a reversal of the previous law in relation to new marriages and divorce. Prior to February 2012, a new marriage would automatically revoke an existing will unless that will had been in contemplation of the marriage. Under current law, the existing will is still valid even if it does not include your new spouse and your new spouse will have to make a claim to your estate under the matrimonial property rules.
Previously, a divorce did not affect a person’s will and there were several instances in Alberta where an estranged former spouse inherited an entire estate because the deceased had not thought to change his or her will. Now, however, gifts given to a former spouse or adult interdependent partner as well as the appointment of a former spouse as executor will be automatically revoked. If you wish to leave a gift to a former spouse or have that former spouse act as executor, your will should state that you are divorced from that person but will wish to leave a gift or have them act.
A separation does not affect a will. Therefore, if a person passes away while separated, but not divorced, any gifts to that person may still be valid.
Lastly, a divorce or new marriage does not affect beneficiary designations on RRSPs, RRIFs, life insurance or other investments. If you are experiencing a change in your relationship status, it is important to revisit all of your estate documents.