In the recent case of Moore v. Sweet, 2018 SCC 52 [“Moore”], the Supreme Court of Canada considered whether a new common law spouse became unjustly enriched as a result of her beneficiary designation under her husband’s life insurance plan.
In Moore, the deceased’s ex-wife was designated as revocable beneficiary of her ex-husband’s life insurance policy. After separation, the ex-wife agreed to continue to pay policy premiums with a view to maintaining the beneficiary designation. The ex-husband subsequently designated his new common law spouse as irrevocable beneficiary without the ex-wife’s knowledge. When the ex-husband passed away, the insurance proceeds became payable to the new common law spouse.
The ex-wife sued the common law spouse, claiming that the common law spouse had been unjustly enriched and held the amounts paid from the life-insurance policy pursuant to a constructive trust for the ex-wife.
In its analysis, the Court found that the common law spouse had received a “tangible benefit” and became enriched by becoming beneficiary of the insurance policy (paras. 41 and 42). The Court also found that the ex-wife had been deprived of a benefit under the insurance policy (para. 52). The Court continued on to find that there was no legal reason for the common law spouse’s enrichment at the expense of the ex-wife (para. 88).
The Court found that the monies from the insurance policy were held in trust by the common law spouse for the ex-wife and ordered that the funds be paid to the ex-wife (para 96).
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