The recent nullification of an Ontario man’s will could have wide-ranging implications in estate litigation in the province. A judge rejected the man’s will on the grounds that it is racist and “offends not only human sensibilities but also public policy.”
The decision is particularly interesting because no explicitly racist statement is made in the will, though a family friend testified that the man’s deathbed pleas were racist. Specifically, the man, who was born in Jamaica, is believed to have disinherited his daughter, who gave birth to a child whose father is white.
There is precedence for nullifying wills that are in violation of public policy. An article in the National Post notes the rejection of the will of a New Brunswick man who left his fortune to a neo-Nazi group. It should also be noted that a will cannot compel an heir to do something illegal in order to inherit assets.
However, in the present case, the man’s will says that the decision not to leave his daughter $400,000 in assets was based on the fact that he and she no longer communicated. There was no mention in the will that race played a part.
The money was left to another daughter, who reportedly lives in the U.K. and has chosen not to participate in the litigation. Still, the judge divided the estate assets between the daughters.
It remains to be seen how future litigants will use the legal precedent.
Wills can be disputed for a number of reasons, and disinheritance can happen intentionally or unintentionally. If you are involved in a dispute over a will, then it is important to speak with an estate litigation attorney in order to resolve the matter in the most cost-efficient way possible.