… Do joint tenants who are spouses have homestead rights? At what point can a homestead cease being a homestead? Do homestead rights continue after the untimely death of one of the spouses even though the spouses were separated and had engaged in a course of dealing sufficient to make it clear that they intended their property to be divided equally?
These are the issues defined by Dunlop, J. in Siwak v. Siwak, 2018 MBQB 9. The parties were married and had purchased a home in joint tenancy. They were separated and in the middle of dividing their assets when Mrs. Siwak died. A previous decision (2016 MBQB 61) had severed the property into a tenancy in common. Mrs. Siwak’s estate is seeking partition and sale of the property in order to distribute the assets to her beneficiaries. Mr. Siwak claims he has established an estate for life flowing from his initial homestead rights.
 Even though Mr. Siwak and Mrs. Siwak lived separate and apart for almost one year and nine months before Mrs. Siwak died and despite the fact that they engaged in a course of dealing sufficient to sever the joint tenancy, it is clear that on a strict reading of the Act, Mr. Siwak had homestead rights at the time of Mrs. Siwak’s passing. One of the primary goals of homestead legislation is to provide a surviving spouse with a life estate in a homestead. Upon the death of Mrs. Siwak, Mr. Siwak realized a life estate in the property.