Will Challenge Litigation – Part 11 – Hull on Estate and Succession Planning #136
Listen to Will Challenge Litigation – Part 11
This week on Hull on Estate and Succession Planning, Ian and Suzana talk about the differences between quantum meruit and propriety estoppel. As with any add-on claims, the courts require solid corroboration. They also discuss claims of resulting trust and claims of constructive trust.
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Will Challenge Litigation Part 11 – Hull on Estate and Succession Planning – Podcast #136
Posted on October 28, 2008 by Hull & Hull LLP
Welcome to Hull on Estate and Succession Planning, a series of podcasts hosted by Ian Hull and Suzana Popovic-Montag, that will provide information and insights into estate planning in Canada. From the offices of Hull Estate Mediation in Toronto, here are Ian and Suzana.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Hi and welcome to Hull on Estate and Succession Planning. You’re listening to episode 136 of our podcast on Tuesday, October 28, 2008.
Ian Hull: Hi Suzana.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Hi there Ian, how are you today?
Ian Hull: Great thanks. It’s a big day. It’s my brother’s birthday so “happy birthday” to my brother.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Happy birthday.
Ian Hull: And we’re going to, I’m sure he’s not listening, he’s stuck in the throws of a software development firm that is going crazy.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: So you’re not going to sing?
Ian Hull: No, we’re not going to sing, we’ll definitely not sing. But we will invite everyone please, to come and hit our web page because we have had such great fun with feedback and just engaging in the social media world with people: firstname.lastname@example.org is where you can get your blog and email@example.com; we invite you to please feel free to send us an e-mail.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Or feel free to leave an audio comment for us at 206-457-1985. We always appreciate hearing from people directly in terms of what they think.
Ian Hull: Absolutely. So where we left off last week was, and I actually got an e-mail from one of my colleagues about this question. And so we left off on this pointing out the difference. We talked about the concept of proprietary estoppel. We talked about the importance of not just throwing stuff at the wall to see if it sticks but pursuing claims that need to be pursued. We talked about how best to pursue it with good corroborative evidence. But what we left off was, we left it sort of with the listeners hanging, so to speak, is what’s the difference between the two? And I guess, let’s talk about the result. What is the different result that you achieve between pursuing a proprietary estoppel claim and a quantum meruit claim? And then let’s talk a little bit about what a quantum meruit claim is because then you can frame the kinds of approaches you want to take in respect of an add-on claim to a Will challenge.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Well Ian, I typically tend to think of a quantum meruit claim as a claim like an hourly paid claim for services rendered to someone without having been paid at the time, but with the expectation that at some later point they’d somehow be compensated. Is that sort of how you view it as well?
Ian Hull: No question. And the big difference between a quantum meruit claim and a proprietary estoppel claim is that a proprietary estoppel claim allows the Court to give you a home run. Whereas the quantum meruit claim restricts the Court because it is a fee for services claim. As you say, it’s an hourly wage based claim. How much did you work for the individual whose now died who promised to pay you when they died and didn’t? And the Court will calculate your hours. So it’s a very different claim and we’ll talk a minute about how we pursue those claims but I think the result is the key and where again we come back to being surgical about what kind of claims we want to take is that if we think we can get the home run play, and that is, get the whole house as opposed to just some repayment of hourly wages, the proprietary estoppel claim opens us up to a tremendous result. And again, we come back to the classic example of a nice, elderly gentleman who was helping a widow with her home and when she said, in one of the leading proprietary estoppel cases, this will all be yours, the Court was able to say, this is really all of yours and that meant the house as opposed to don’t worry, you’ll be looked after. And that could be construed as more of a quantum meruit claim.
So let’s talk a little bit about the history as we’re in the world of, our case law is always historic in every way. The history of quantum meruit claims, so that we can help better understand how we’re going to pursue those kinds of claims.
And we go back to the 1940s in Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada, where they started to develop the law out of England. And it basically came out of the same, the Degelman case its called and we’ll have the case in the Show Notes. But the case was much like my proprietary estoppel example in terms of the facts. And in Degelman the same sort of thing happened. A nice gentleman came to assist, in that case again, a widower and the comments were made and expectations were created that he would be paid for cutting the lawn and looking after the house and so on. And sure enough, when she died, he wasn’t. So the Court struggled with how we can deal with this unjust enrichment because the Court doesn’t like the idea that this person acted to his detriment and didn’t get paid. And so the Court basically sat down, and as you say, did an hourly wage basis analysis and said, took the Latin phrase quantum meruit, paid for work for services rendered approach, and said well, how many hours did you work and what’s a fair hourly wage? So the Degelman case established what is, I think, a really important add-on claim in a Will challenge because sometimes you can’t prove there’s lack of capacity. Sometimes you can’t prove you were promised the whole enchilada and the whole house. But you can prove your services rendered. And it comes back to this high standard that the Courts expect on corroboration and the fact that you’ve got to put such good evidence forward to the Court, or they’re not going to give you your claim.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: That’s right. I mean, the truth is, we do have the benefit of an equitable Court, I’d say, in the sense of what you just said, nobody wants to see someone work for free on an expectation that they would receive something at the end of the day. And when you’re in these situations, the facts are really going to drive, I think, the result, in addition to the evidence that you can put forward in support of it. But if you’ve got someone who is mowing the lawn, buying groceries and taking someone to appointments and that, you can see where a Court might think more in terms of a quantum meruit kind of claim, because those are kind of services that are rendered, as opposed to the other situation where you’re claiming proprietary estoppel and you’re dealing maybe specifically with maintaining a house or a farm property or something to that effect, where it might make more sense that the whole enchilada, as you say Ian, was what was expected, what was intended, and what hopefully you’ll be able to prove in terms of entitlement at the end of the day.
Ian Hull: So now that we’ve got two efficient and can be very powerful add-on claims, we also have to keep in mind the two other historic claims and that is, claims of resulting trust and claims of constructive trust. And why don’t we start with the resulting trust because that was historically, in a chronological order, the one that was established first. And it is the one that had such a big impact when you have joint assets. So let’s spend a minute on the concept of resulting trust.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Sure Ian, that’s a good idea. Now when we talk about a resulting trust, of course we’re talking about a situation where assets are held jointly and on the death of one of them there is an expectation, either of obtaining those assets by right of survivorship or by way of a resulting trust.
Ian Hull: And what the Courts have done is they’ve said if you have an asset and say this, even if it’s not jointly in some cases, if the asset is held by an individual. So you hold an asset that over the years you have allowed me to participate in and a classic example is a cottage property. So you hold it and over the years you’re the one that has put all the money in, you bought it, you kept it up. But from time to time, I used it or I at some level paid toward the costs, that kind of situation. The Courts will look at that illustration as something that may require a resulting trust because on my death, for example, like you said, say that cottage is jointly held between you and I. On my death, it would be by right of survivorship. But what if I held the property in my own name and you had paid me all the money to buy the cottage because you were lending me the money and you hadn’t shown anything on mortgage or anything like that. The bottom line was that you ended up, the title didn’t pass to you. That scenario can create a situation where a resulting trust argument needs to be pursued. And the joint accounts is the other classic.
So anyway what we’ll do in the next podcast is talk a little bit about the examples so that we can really lock down this concept of a resulting trust and then see where it developed in a constructive trust. And we remind everyone please, look forward to your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Or email@example.com which is our blog. And, of course, our phone number, 206-457-1985.
Thanks very much, Ian.
Ian Hull: Thanks Suzana.
You’ve been listening to Hull on Estate and Succession Planning with Ian Hull and Suzana Popovic-Montag. The podcast you have been listening to has been provided as an information service. It is a summary of current legal issues in estates and estate planning. It is not legal advice and you are reminded to always talk with a legal professional regarding your specific circumstances.
To listen to other Hull On podcasts, or to leave any questions or comments, please visit our website at hullestatemediation.com.