Gordon R. McKenzie



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 Estates Act.

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 is taken.

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