Accounting Procedure Available Under the Substitute Decisions Act – Hull on Estates #98
This week on Hull on Estates, Rick and David discuss procedure under the Substitution Decisions Act and review executor and attorney obligations as well as specific procedures permitting someone to compel an accounting.
Accounting Procedure Available Under the Substitute Decisions Act – Hull on Estates Podcast #98
David Smith: Hello, welcome to Hull on Estates. You’re listening to Episode #98 in our continuing podcast series on Tuesday, February 19th, 2008.
Welcome to Hull on Estates, a series of podcasts for the Canadian legal community dealing with issues and insights surrounding estate planning in Canada. Hosted by the lawyers of Hull & Hull, the podcast will touch on some key considerations when planning estates and Wills. Now, here are today’s hosts.
David Smith: Hello Rick.
Rick Bickhram: Hi Dave. How are you doing today?
David Smith: You know, I’m doing well, Rick. And, you know, today we’ve decided… its David Smith here and I’m with Rick Bickhram of my office. And we’ve decided today, Rick, that what we’re going to podcast on is a bit of a potpourri but the focus is really going to be on the accounting procedure available under the Substitute Decisions Act. And in particular, how the obligation to account as an attorney is the same as or is different from the obligation to account as an executor, for instance. And then we thought we’d talk about the specific procedures under the Substitute Decisions Act that permit someone to compel an accounting. So Rick, let’s talk about this whole idea of accounting generally. What is it about an attorney that opens them up to the whole concept of a duty to account?
Rick Bickhram: That’s a good question, Dave. My understanding is that an attorney, by virtue of the fact that you’re an attorney, there’s a fiduciary relationship. And that fiduciary relationship is established by the fact that the attorney has the power to do what the incapable person or on behalf of the incapable person, anything that the incapable person would have been able to do had he or she been capable.
David Smith: You know, and that’s right, Rick. And certainly, when we’re talking about the Substitute Decisions Act, intuitively we’re thinking about someone substituting their decision-making role for that of someone who can’t otherwise exercise it. Of course, the Substitute Decisions Act also applies to people who are perfectly capable, but who voluntarily surrender their decision-making ability to someone in more of a principal/ agent relationship. But you’re quite right, it’s a fiduciary relationship and it’s clearly a fiduciary relationship when the grantor of the Power of Attorney is incapable, isn’t it?
Rick Bickhram: Absolutely. And I think it’s also important to note that the fiduciary in the fiduciary relationship, whether it be voluntary or involuntary, the attorney or a guardian in the situation would have the ability to manage the grantor’s or incapable person’s finances.
David Smith: And that’s where the duty to account comes in, isn’t it, Rick?
Rick Bickhram: Absolutely, Dave.
David Smith: Rick, when we talk about the form of accounts, obviously it’s beyond the ambit of our discussion today to talk about the form of accounts and the whole process of a passing of accounts which is clearly a subject matter for another podcast. But I think continuing on with this idea of the concept of a duty to account, what ties into that and what we really want to explore to some extent today is, how do we compel an accounting? And what does the Substitute Decisions Act say to the duty of an attorney to account, and what remedies are available to someone who wants to compel an accounting?
Rick Bickhram: Well Dave, the authority to obtain an Order to compel an attorney to account can be found under Section 42 of the Substitute Decisions Act. Now under Section 42 of the Substitute Decisions Act, specifically sub-section 1, it states that the Court may, on an application, order that all or a specific part of the accounts of an attorney or guardian be passed. Going through this section, it lists the types of individuals who can bring this application to obtain this unique remedy.
David Smith: And who are those people, Rick?
Rick Bickhram: Under sub-section 4– well, first of all, let me take a step back. Looking at sub-section 2, it states an attorney, the grantor or any of the persons listed in sub-section 4, may apply to pass the attorney’s accounts. From this, I gather that it means the attorney or the grantor of the Power of Attorney. Sub-section 4 states the grantor or incapable person’s guardian of the person or attorney for personal care. As we all know, a Power of Attorney can be given with respect to property and personal care. Section 42, sub-section 4, sub 1 states that it’s the guardian or attorney for the personal care that can proceed with the Court application to compel a passing of accounts.
David Smith: Okay, and that’s an interesting safeguard, isn’t it? Because, I mean, there’s a fair bit of case law dealing with situations where somebody appoints different people to be their attorneys for property and attorneys for personal care respectively. And quite often, there’s conflict between those two and the attorney for personal care who, for example, chooses a care facility for a senior grantor, may run into conflict with the person who’s paying the bills, namely the attorney for property. So intuitively, it makes some sense actually to give that attorney for personal care the power to say to the attorney for property, “Hey, attorney for property, I’m not satisfied that you’re doing everything you should or I want to see what you’re doing and make sure that the books are in order”. What about… what other people have the ability there?
Rick Bickhram: Under Section 42, sub-section 4, sub 2, a dependant of the grantor or incapable person. So the individual who grants the Power of Attorney or has been declared incapable, may move by way of a Court application to obtain a passing of accounts from the attorney or guardian. The third, I guess this is an entity, the Public Guardian and Trustee may move by way of an application to obtain a passing of accounts.
David Smith: Right and then the remaining 3, Rick, are the Children’s Lawyer, in the case of a minor who’s got an interest. There’s obviously some standing there for them to do it. I think the next two are the most interesting. A judgment creditor of the grantor or incapable person. That’s a rarely used remedy in my experience, but it’s certainly interesting to think that somebody who is owed money by the grantor of the Power of Attorney or the incapable person can seek to compel an accounting, presumably as a way of seeking to recover monies to which they’re owed. So it’s very interesting that that person is given that remedy. And then, of course, the last one is any other person with leave of the Court. And I guess, you know, the interesting question there is, what is the test that the Court’s going to require before granting leave to someone? And certainly, in my experience, the Court is going to say to an applicant seeking leave, what is your reason for doing this? What is your standing before the Court to seek an accounting? Do you have any relationship to the person? Be you a blood relative or someone else with good cause to be concerned about the management of the person’s finances? And Rick, what do you think we’d need to do in terms of Affidavit evidence on that application, to convince a judge that our client should get leave?
Rick Bickhram: The person who is trying to obtain leave would have to demonstrate in his Affidavit that there was a relationship between himself and the incapable person or the grantor who’s granted the Power of Attorney in the situation. Also I would like to believe that the individual, the deponent here, who’s making this Affidavit, would probably want to establish some type of financial interest. Why is it that he’s seeking and why is that he is seeking a compelling of the accounts? What is his interest in this individual or this individual’s estate?
David Smith: Yeah, and you know, that’s a really interesting point, Rick, and something I wrestle with, with clients quite often in the sense that look, quite often, you’ll be dealing with a situation where you’ll have persons who have a financial interest on the death of the grantor. And the problem is this; if they go in front of the Court seeking leave to compel an accounting and say “My interest in this matter is that I have a financial interest on the death of the grantor, therefore in order to make sure that the amount I eventually inherit has not been improperly squandered before the death of the grantor, I want to monitor what’s being done with the money.” Of course, the problem with making that pitch is that the judge hearing this will be inclined to say, “Well, hold on a second. My job is not to protect the inheritance of the grantor for the benefit of the person who benefits under the estate. It’s to make sure the grantor is well looked after”. And the way I approach that is to say, “Certainly it’s relevant to say that you’ve got an expectation of an inheritance and that does give you some financial standing.” On the other hand, I think the Affidavit has to be crafted in such a way as to make it clear to the judge that the overriding, compelling basis by which the person is seeking leave to compel an accounting is to look out for the best interests of the grantor because the Court is not going to care one iota about preserving the inheritance of the grantor for the benefit of the person seeking leave, is it?
Rick Bickhram: And that makes complete sense, Dave. And if you think about it, I guess as an attorney or as a solicitor, I would be a little reluctant to go in front of the judge and explain to the judge that my client is, you know, pretty much monitoring his financial interest in the estate, especially being that the individual, the individual being the grantor or the incapable person, is still alive, it’s his money. And right now, the first concern should be his well-being.
David Smith: Right. So fine line there. But, you know, something that needs to be mentioned because it does, as you stated at the outset there Rick, tie into what is the interest of the person seeking leave. And a complete stranger seeking to compel an accounting isn’t going to get anywhere if they can’t show a compelling relationship with the grantor. Now Rick, looking at the time, you know, we’re getting close to the end of the podcast. Did, before we finish, want to touch on Section 39 of the Substitute Decisions Act. And this is a really interesting Section in my mind. It’s probably an underused Section for anyone engaged in capacity litigation. And what it is, is it’s a Section of the Act which provides directions from the Court and I’ll read it. It says, “If an incapable person has a guardian or an attorney under a continuing Power of Attorney, the Court may give directions on any question arising in the management of the property”. And that’s pretty broad language, isn’t it, Rick?
Rick Bickhram: Absolutely. And as I was reading through this section earlier today, I was thinking to myself, “What is the prospects or how likely is it that the individual would bring or ask for a remedy seeking the passing of accounts under this Section, you know, versus 42.” I understand that 42 specifically sets out a passing of accounts. But let’s say there are other Orders that they’re seeking. You would very well stick in Section 39 in there.
David Smith: That’s absolutely right, Rick. I think these two Sections can quite often be used together. And it’s an important tool for the litigator to keep in mind. If you look at the people who are eligible to apply under Section 39. Section 39, sub 3, similarly provides the Court with the power to grant leave to anyone to apply for directions. And the nice thing about Section 39 is you might have a situation where you don’t have a guardianship application; that’s to say that your client isn’t seeking guardianship of the incapable person, but is seeking more than merely an accounting. And Section 39 is this nice… it gives you this nice, intermediary approach between a full blown guardianship application on the one hand and an application for directions or to compel a passing of accounts rather. And it gives you that much more room and it’s nice, broad language. You know, you can be creative, you do some lateral thinking and really, you know, use that Section to your advantage. And remember, the Court is under a duty here to supervise the role of the attorney, the role of the guardian. It’s a powerful Section and the Court has a great deal of power under this Section and it should always be considered when looking at remedies available to the client who is seeking to look out for the concerns of an incapable grantor of a Power of Attorney.
Rick Bickhram: Great point, Dave. Well looking at the time, it looks like we are just about at the end of our podcast. It was great talking with you today, Dave.
David Smith: You know Rick, I enjoyed it too and we’ll look forward to the next opportunity to podcast. Take care.
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