The claim of a common-law spouse whose husband was killed after approximately 4 years cohabitation was dismissed for a number of reasons, some in Eckford v. Rhonda Vanderwood et al 2013 BCSC 1729, included the fact that the widow earned substantially more than the deceased each year, and that she received one half of the matrimonial home by right of survivorship, and she had $500,000 of her own assets after only a four year marriage like relationship with the deceased..
The remaining $400,000 in the estate was left undisturbed as per the will of the deceased, in which she gave each of his two children 40% and the remaining 20% to his 80 year old mother .
The surviving spouse sought the entire $400,000 estate at trial, arguing amongst other things that she supported the deceased financially after he stopped working in 2006, and cared for him throughout his various medical problems. She described herself as his caregiver and testified that she herself is permanently disabled and cannot work .
The opposing parties disagreed with the amount of care she provided, and her various alleged medical concerns, and took the position that given the relative short duration of the relationship and the relative financial circumstances of the parties, that the deceased made adequate provision for the plaintiff.
The court found that the plaintiff earned substantially more than the deceased during their cohabitation, and that she had sufficient assets of her own of approximately $500,000 ,to remain self-sufficient. She was not a dependent spouse, and therefore she had little or no entitlement to spousal support had she of the deceased separated prior to his death.
The plaintiff had argued that there had been a material change in her medical condition since the date of the will and the date of death of her spouse.
The court agreed with this principle but disagreed with the conclusion that the plaintiff was as medically disabled as she alleged .
35) Ms. Eckford relies on Landy v. Landy Estate (1991), 60 B.C.L.R. (2d) 282 (C.A.) where the court stated at 292-293:
“On the basis of the foregoing analysis I have concluded that a substantial change in the circumstances of a person entitled to make a claim under the Wills Variation Act, or of a beneficiary, between the date of death of a testator and the date of trial, is a circumstance which may be taken into consideration when a court is determining, under the second stage of the two stage process involved in s. 2(1) of the Act, the provision that should be made for a claimant that is “adequate, just and equitable in the circumstances”.