The modern dating world is complex, app-driven and, frankly, a bit frightening. According to IBISWorld market research, millions of people are logging on to dating sites every day to find love with complete strangers. Canadians in particular remain amongst the world’s most active users of social networking, so it should probably come as no surprise that nearly a quarter of all Canadians have tried online dating.[1]

According to statistics from eHarmony , 20% of those in current, committed relationships began online and 7% of all marriages in 2015 were between couples that met on a dating website.[2] As such, it would appear that many of today’s singles in Canada may be only one Tinder or Bumble swipe away from finding a long term partner. Great news for all you single readers out there! Or is it…?

From an estate litigation perspective, just how long term does a romantic relationship need to be in order for a person to make a claim for dependant support? Can a romantic partner make a claim for dependant support without establishing that he or she actually lived with their deceased partner?

In Stajduhar v. Wolfe, an Application for dependant support was brought forth by Branislava Stajduhar (“Branislava“) against the estate of Jeffrey Kerzner (“Jeffrey” or the “Deceased”). Branislava alleged that she was the dependent spouse of the Deceased because she was:

  1. Supported financially by the Deceased; and
  2. Was in a committed relationship with the Deceased from August 2009 until his death.

On December 31, 2016, Jeffrey died suddenly of an apparent heart attack. His estate was valued at approximately $1.5 million and with immaterial exceptions; his two adult children were the sole beneficiaries of his estate. Justice Dunphy determined that Branislava failed to prove that she was a dependent spouse as at the time of Jeffrey’s death. As a result, Justice Dunphy dismissed the Application for dependent support based on the threshold question of whether the Applicant could even be considered a “dependant” within the meaning the Succession Law Reform Act (“SLRA”)[3].

A determination as to who qualifies and meets the test of a “dependant” is made in accordance with a two-part test set out in section 57 of the SLRA. For the purposes of an Application for support, a “dependant” is defined as a spouse, parent, child, or brother or sister of the deceased, to whom, immediately before death, the deceased was providing, or had a legal obligation to provide support. The definition of “spouse” in the SLRA goes beyond two married individuals and includes either of two persons, who are not married to each other and have cohabitated,

  1. continuously for a period of not less than three years; or
  2. are in a relationship of some permanence, if they are the natural or adoptive parents of a child.

Branislava was never married to the Deceased, and at all material times lived separate and apart from him. As such, she was not considered to be a “dependant” within the meaning the SLRA.

Based on the evidence at trial as well as the evidence provided by the executrix of Jeffrey’s Will, Ms. Arlene Wolfe (“Arlene”), it was established that there were numerous breaks in the relationship between Jeffrey and Branislava. Arlene also provided evidence which suggested that the Deceased had formed a number of close relationships with women he met on on-line dating sites. Interestingly, Arlene also first met Jeffrey in 2001 on a Jewish dating site. While they did not ultimately become romantically involved, they did become close friends. Jeffrey confided in her and shared intimate details of his life with her, including details of his relationship with what he sometimes jokingly described as his “harem” of women.

Evidently, while you may not find love online, you may find that “special someone” to carry out the terms of your will.