What of estrangement?
Unfortunate situations exist where estrangement occurs between child and parent. Divorce and new relationships and/or circumstances create emotional hurdles that may draw such parties apart and it is not uncommon for these situations to come before the court. The SCC in the recent case of McLellan v. McLellan, 2011 BCSC 461 found that although a daughter was not willing to accept her father's new wife, it was not a valid or sufficient reason for her father to provide a moderate inheritance. The father "...bore the greater responsibility for causing and continuing the limited relationship and subsequent estrangement...", and the will was varied accordingly. Conversely, the court in Berger v. Clark, 2002 BCCA 316 dismissed a claim by a child who had been disinherited due to their conduct as they found the reasons for disinheritance to be "solidly based on the facts and were not unreasonable or irrational".
There may also be cases where the estrangement is neither the fault of the parent or the child. The testator in the case of Price v. Lypchuk Estate (1987), 26 E.T.R. 259 (B.C.C.A.) was told by his wife, after returning from military service overseas, that he was not allowed to see their children. The marriage sadly ended in divorce. He then remarried and had two more children. Upon his death, the court recognized the moral duty is weaker in relation to adult children and did not require him to ignore the fact that his previous family had rejected him. Due to the fact the estate was modest, also being half comprised of his inheritance from his deceased second wife, and the absence of any parent-child relationship, the court could not find that the testator owed a moral duty toward his previous children.
The stories relating to Wills Variation are unfortunate but also captivating. The internal complexities of individual relationships and families brings forth difficult legal questions which often lead to important guiding principles.