Ontario Superior Court dismisses former wife's claims against late husband's estate

After their separation, the husband removed from his will

Ontario Superior Court dismisses former wife's claims against late husband's estate

In a recent ruling, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice rejected a former wife's claims against her late husband's estate, including equalization of net family property, a declaration invalidating his last will, and damages related to personal property.

In Budgell v. Pratt et. al., 2024 ONSC 2645, Paul Pratt passed away in 2019, leaving three wills dated 2014, 2016, and 2018. The 2014 will include Budgell as a beneficiary, granting her his residence at 76 Sarah Street, Thedford, Ontario. However, after their separation in 2015, Pratt's subsequent wills in 2016 and 2018 did not include Budgell as a beneficiary, leaving his estate to his children.

Following Pratt’s death, his son, Brian Pratt, acting as the executor of the estate, began the process of distributing the assets. Budgell objected and sought multiple forms of relief from the court.

Budgell sought equalization of net family property (NFP) or half the value of the Sarah Street property. The court found that her claim was brought outside the limitation period prescribed by the Family Law Act, and her failure to elect within six months of Pratt’s death resulted in a deemed election to take under the will. Furthermore, the Superior Court found that equalizing the NFP would be unconscionable due to the brief 75-day marriage and lack of significant contribution from Budgell.

Budgell claimed $40,000 in damages related to a Volkswagen vehicle and expenses for a Mitsubishi vehicle she had taken from Pratt. The court dismissed these claims, citing contradictory evidence and a lack of corroboration. The court found that the Volkswagen had been impounded due to Budgell's driving record, and she provided no evidence to support her valuation claims.

Budgell challenged the validity of Pratt's 2018 will, alleging undue influence and lack of testamentary capacity. The court upheld the will, noting that it was prepared by Pratt’s solicitor and properly executed. The court found no evidence to support Budgell's allegations and dismissed her claims.

Budgell sought $100,000 in damages for personal property allegedly left at Sarah Street. However, the court dismissed this claim, citing inconsistencies in Budgell’s statements and a lack of corroborative evidence as required under the Evidence Act.

Ultimately, the court dismissed Budgell's application, including her claims for equalization of NFP, damages related to vehicles and personal property, and her challenge to the validity of the 2018 will.

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