I had the opportunity to listen to an interesting speech at the Estates Summit recently on the topic of predatory marriages. A marriage is predatory when one party enters it to take advantage of the other party's diminished capacity for the purpose of gaining access to their assets. These so-called marriages are hard to challenge, because the test for the capacity to marry is low.
The children of the exploited party may be surprised to find that their parent's marriage later in life changes their right to the inheritance. The exploited party may be unduly influenced into leaving everything to their new spouse. Even if the Will remains unchanged after the couple exchange their vows, a spouse still has the right to elect to take an equalization payment from the Estate under section 6(1) of the Family Law Act. If the exploited party dies without a will, their spouse is entitled to the property absolutely if the Estate is worth less than $200,000 under section 45(1) of the Succession Law Reform Act. If the Estate is worth more than $200,000, the spouse still gets a preferential share to the first $200,000.
What can be done to protect elderly people from being exploited? On the one hand, raising the legal capacity to marry could prevent some predatory marriages. On the other hand, raising the capacity to marry could take away the right of people with certain disabilities to get married, when the fact that someone has a mental disorder does not necessarily mean that they are being exploited in a relationship.
Somehow, a balance must be struck. If you have any thoughts on this topic, please feel free to share them as a comment.
Holly LeValliant - Click here for more information on Holly LeValliant.
* The title of this blog is attributed to lyrics by Kanye West