The testator rarely saw the child after the divorce – is that grounds to disinherit?

  • No.  A testator cannot avoid his moral obligation to his child by unilaterally withdrawing from the relationship

In Gray v. Nantel the testator and his wife separated when the child was one year old.  The testator only saw the child once in the next 17 years and paid limited and sporadic child support.  When the child was 18 the testator offered him a job.  However, the child was laid off after 3 months due to a lack of work, and the testator never gave the child his final paycheque.  They only spoke once after that.

The Court of Appeal said that a child who was neglected during childhood then treated shabbily during a brief reconciliation does not forfeit his moral claim to a share of the estate by abandoning further effort to establish a relationship.  The fault lay with the testator and he bore the onus of seeking a further reconciliation.  If the testator gave the child nothing in an emotional or material way while living, the will is his last opportunity to do right by the child.

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Read the case:  Gray v. Nantel

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