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Stuart v Stuart, 2019 ONSC

Interpreting a Will can be tricky. Certain words, phrases or clauses can be interpreted differently by different people and sometimes the Court needs to step in to provide the proper interpretation of same. In the case of Stuart v Stuart, the Court was asked to assist in the interpretation of several clauses in the Will of Mr. Andrew Stuart.

Doreen Stuart, “the wife” and Andrew Stuart, “the husband” lived together in the property they owned as tenants-in-common until the husband went into a long-term care facility due to a medical condition. As a result, the wife sold the matrimonial home and purchased a life lease in which title was also taken as tenants-in-common. The husband never lived in the new residence as he was not well enough to leave the long-term care facility and eventually died.

The husband left a Will and the Court was asked to assist in the interpretation of many clauses such as:

3(h) To allow my wife, during her lifetime, the use and enjoyment of whatever interest I may own in any residence we may occupy at the time of my death. My Trustee may, at any time, with the consent of my wife, sell such interest with the proceeds of such sale assist in the purchase of another residence for the use and enjoyment of my wife as aforesaid and so on from time to time, always retaining the proportionate share in such residence for my estate. If my wife so prefers, my Trustee may sell such interest in the residence and hold the net proceeds of sale in trust for my wife as hereinafter set out. If, during any period, the whole or any part of the proceeds of any such sale be not so used, they shall be invested by my Trustee and my wife shall, during such period, be entitled to the net income therefrom. My Trustee in determining the proceeds of sale of any such interest in the residence with a view to providing another interest in the residence for my wife as aforesaid, shall not deduct the amount of any debts secured thereon.

The Court was asked whether this clause would extend to the residence that was owned by the husband and wife as tenants-in-common, but was never occupied by the husband as of the date of his death.

In this instance, the Court applied the “armchair rule.” This rule allows the Court to “sit in the place of the Will maker and assume the same knowledge he has to the nature and extent of his assets, the makeup of his family, and his relation to its member.” The Court found that the husband and wife were still married and lived together until a medical condition forced the husband to be moved into a long-term care facility. Therefore, they were only separated due to the husbands medical condition. It is clear that the Will makers intentions from his will was for his wife to be properly taken care of after his death.

The Court therefore found on the facts of the case and reading of the Will that the wife was allowed to reside in the subsequently purchased life lease despite the husband never living there.

If you need assistance interpreting a Will or Administering an Estate, contact our Elizabeth Street office by phone at 705-526-3791 for a quote or speak directly to one of our lawyers.

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