Revocation clause does not impact beneficiary designations, finds Canadian court

Tuesday, 25 January 2022
A recent decision in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice has shown that a standard revocation clause in a will may not be considered applicable to beneficiary designations.
will signing

The testator, Theresa Crumb, had executed beneficiary designations for her registered retirement income fund (RRIF) and tax-free savings account (TFSA) prior to executing her 2019 will, which made no mention of the two accounts but did contain a revocation clause relating to “all Wills and Testamentary dispositions of every nature and kind whatsoever made by me heretofore made.”

Crumb’s son, Robert Crumb, submitted that she intended for his sisters, Sherri Alger and Teresa Smith, to receive no more than the CAD20,000 provided in her will and nothing from the RRIF and TFSA. However, he was unable to provide evidence to support the assertion that these were  Crumb’s instructions.

The judge therefore relied on statute and case law to make a decision, specifically the Succession Law Reform Act 1990 (the Act). Section 52 of the Act provides that a beneficiary designation for a plan such as an RRIF or a TFSA would be revoked only if the will expressly refers to revoking that designation.

“There is no express reference specifically to either the RRIF designation or the TFSA designation in the revocation clause in the Will in this case, nor is there any reference to any beneficial designations generally,” the judge commented. “Although beneficial designations fall under the broad category of ‘testamentary dispositions’ – it would be a stretch to find that mentioning that broad category amounted to ‘expressly’ referencing the RRIF designation or the TFSA designation, either generally or specifically.”

The court examined previous case law on the matter, noting that the Court of Appeal of Ontario 2001 decision in Laczova Estate v Madonna House (O.J. No. 4992) found that the Act “should be strictly interpreted, such that at the very least the Will must reference beneficial designations in a general sense.”

As a result, the standard revocation clause in Crumb’s will was found to be insufficient to revoke the RRIF and TFSA beneficiary designations (Alger v Crumb, 2021 ONSC 6076).

Sources

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