Testamentary Custody and Guardianship
The sudden death of Michael Jackson has sent a shock-wave of sadness across the globe. I expect it will be some time before you can tune in to various media without seeing coverage on it.
I find myself drawn in to the discussion, which one of my colleagues also blogged on last week. His commentary focused on the expected complex administration of Jackson’s estate, given both his sizeable assets and debts. This blog focuses on one aspect of the human element of the tragedy, sparked by Jackson’s Will.
As noted in a recent New York Times Article, in his Will Diana Ross is appointed as the guardian for Jackson’s children if his mother is no longer willing or able to fulfill that role.
In Ontario, a custody or guardianship appointment by Will is not determinative of the issue. It only has a temporary effect, in that any appointment for custody or guardianship expires ninety-days after such appointment becomes effective (i.e. ninety-days from the date of death in this case) (see section 61(7) of the Children’s Law Reform Act).
However, if the appointee applies to the court for custody or guardianship within the ninety-day period, the appointment expires when the application is disposed of. While each case is usually fact-specific, I would expect that a testator’s wishes set out in his/her Will is a factor a court would give significant weight to when considering such an application.
In Jackson’s case this issue is already a live one, with potentially several people vying for custody and/or guardianship. It will be interesting to see who ends up being the primary caregiver(s) of his young children.
Have a great day,