IN A LEGAL TEA POT - By Gordon R. MacKenzie
When Hurricane Hazel's warm moist air came in contact with a Canadian
cold front in October 1954, record rainfall drenched Toronto and
surrounding areas causing the worst flooding in 200 years.
Albert and Annie Topliss were victims of the disaster. They had
no will, but Albert had two life insurance policies and Annie was
named beneficiary. It was unclear who survived the other and the
Ontario Court of Appeal had to decide who was entitled to the insurance
proceeds (Re: Topliss and Topliss).
Ontario's Insurance Act presumes the beneficiary died first in a
common disaster. The insurance proceeds therefore passed to Albert's
estate to be distributed in accordance with the old Devolution of
Ironically, the court ruled Annie survived Albert for the purposes
of his estate. The Survivorship Act applied to estates and it said
the younger shall be deemed to survive the older, where it is unclear
who survived the other.
While Annie's estate was not entitled to the entire proceeds of
the life insurance as beneficiary, it did collect part of them as
Annie was Albert's younger surviving spouse. The law has since changed.
These days, Annie's estate would receive nothing, as Albert's property
would be distributed as though he had survived her and hers would
be distributed as though she survived him.
No one knows what the future holds, but making a will can ensure
your property is given to who you want, not to who the law decides.
This article is presented as general information only and is
not to be relied on as legal advice. You should contact your lawyer
to see how the law applies to your circumstances before any action