In Estate of Harold Franklin Campbell (Re), 2023 ONSC 4315, the Court considered whether the new, curative provision under s.21.1(1) of the Succession Law Reform Act (“SLRA”) was available to revive a Will revoked by a subsequent marriage.
Harold Franklin Campbell died on June 11, 2020. He was survived by his two children of his first marriage, Christopher and Lisa, and his second wife, Carol. Following the death of his first wife, Harold executed a Will dated March 15, 1996 (the “1996 Will”), which named Christopher and Lisa as estate trustee and alternate estate trustee, and equal residual beneficiaries.
Harold married Carol on October 28, 2000. This marriage revoked the 1996 Will by operation of s.16 of the SLRA (which provision has been revoked for marriages after January 1, 2022).
Harold then made two handwritten notes dated November 16, 2016 and June 9, 2017 (the “Holographs”), which he signed and stapled to the inside cover of the 1996 Will. The November 16, 2016 note set out specific items Harold requested to be given to Carol, and the June 9, 2017 note stated his wishes regarding the handling of his remains.
Christopher brought an application to the court for directions regarding the validity of the 1996 Will and whether it was revived by the Holographs.
Christopher argued that the Holographs revived the 1996 Will under s.21.1(1) of the SLRA which states that “[i]f the Superior Court of Justice is satisfied that a document or writing that was not properly executed or made under this Act sets out the testamentary intentions of a deceased or an intention of a deceased to revoke, alter or revive a will of the deceased, the Court may, on application, order that the document or writing is as valid and fully effective as the will of the deceased, or as the revocation, alteration or revival of the will of the deceased, as if it had been properly executed or made.”
The Court found that the 1996 Will was revived by the November 16, 2016 note, and was valid and subsisting. The November 16, 2016 note showed that at that date, Harold thought the 1996 Will was valid and he wanted to vary it by making a holograph making bequests to Carol. By making the holograph, he gave effect to the 1996 Will. However, the Court validated the 1996 Will by applying s.19(1)(b) of the SLRA, which states that that “[a] Will or part of a will that has been in any manner revoked is revived only (b) by a codicil that has been made in accordance with the provisions of this Part, that shows an intention to give effect to the will or part that was revoked.”
As such, there was no need to rely upon s.21.1(1) to revive the 1996 Will. Rather, the Holographs were codicils which operated to give effect to the 1996 Will. Moreover, there was no authority to interpret s.21.1(1) as permitting the court to read into a document or writing an intention to revoke, alter or revive a will. Rather, the purpose of s.21.1(1) was to confer jurisdiction upon the court to deem valid a document or writing that failed to comply with the requirements of the SLRA, but that nonetheless set out a testator’s intentions based on the reading of the document and the extrinsic evidence. The testator’s intention cannot be found where there was no such evidence. In this case, the Holographs made no reference to Harold’s intentions with respect to the 1996 Will.
This case furthers the jurisprudence interpreting s.21.1(1) of the SLRA and demonstrates its limits. Moreover, although marriages held after January 1, 2022 no longer revoke prior Wills (although pre-January 1, 2022 marriage still do), this case serves as a reminder that we should all revisit our wills and estate plans following major life changes to ensure our wills continue to accord with our testamentary intentions.