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unmarried couples



In today’s diverse society, many couples choose to build a life together without formalizing their relationship through marriage. While this decision is entirely valid and reflects personal choices, it’s essential to understand the legal implications, especially when children and shared property are involved. In Ontario, unmarried couples face unique challenges, particularly in scenarios where one partner passes away. Let’s delve into the issues that can arise and how couples can navigate these legal complexities.


1. Property Ownership and Inheritance Rights: One of the primary concerns for unmarried couples is property ownership and inheritance rights. In Ontario, if a partner dies without a Will (intestate), the rules of intestacy under the Succession Law Reform Act come into play. This law prioritizes spouses in legal marriages for inheritance rights, including the matrimonial home. However, unmarried partners do not have automatic rights to each other’s assets or the family home under intestacy laws.

2. Protecting Children’s Interests: For couples with children, ensuring the well-being and financial security of the children becomes paramount, especially in the absence of a legal marriage. Without a Will or other legal arrangements in place, the surviving partner may face challenges in asserting guardianship or securing financial support for the children. This can lead to uncertainty and potential disputes regarding the children’s future care and inheritance.

3. Estate Planning Considerations: To address these issues effectively, unmarried couples should consider comprehensive Estate Planning. This includes drafting a Will to specify inheritance wishes, guardianship arrangements for minor children, and provisions for the partner’s financial security after death. Additionally, legal tools such as cohabitation agreements, powers of attorney, and trust structures can provide added protection and clarity in estate matters.

4. Joint Property Ownership and Survivorship Rights: In cases where unmarried partners jointly own property, such as a home, it’s crucial to understand the implications of joint tenancy versus tenancy in common. Joint tenancy typically includes a right of survivorship, meaning if one partner dies, the property automatically passes to the surviving partner outside of the Will and without Probate fees. However, this arrangement may not align with the deceased partner’s wishes regarding inheritance and can lead to disputes or unintended consequences.

5. Seeking Legal Guidance: Given the complex legal landscape surrounding unmarried couples, children, and property ownership, seeking professional legal advice is highly recommended. A knowledgeable Estate Planning lawyer can assess individual circumstances, provide tailored guidance, and assist in creating legally binding documents to protect the interests of both partners and their children.


In conclusion, while choosing not to marry is a personal decision, unmarried couples must be aware of the legal ramifications, especially regarding children, shared assets, and Estate Planning. Taking proactive steps to address these issues through comprehensive Estate Planning and legal advice can provide clarity, security, and peace of mind for everyone involved. By seeking legal guidance and implementing appropriate legal measures, unmarried couples can navigate potential challenges and ensure their wishes are respected in all circumstances.


Reach out to Peter@smartwills.ca to learn more and get help.

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This material is for general information and educational purposes only. Information is based on data gathered from what we believe are reliable sources. It is not guaranteed as to accuracy, does not purport to be complete and is not intended to be used as a primary basis for investment decisions.