Capacity Litigation: A Clarification on Costs
A September 8, 2009 endorsement of Justice D.M. Brown helps to clarify the costs of capacity litigation.
Fiacco v. Lombardi, 2009 CanLII 46170 (ON S.C.) involves four siblings who disputed the management of their mother’s property. She executed a continuing power of attorney for property appointing all four of her children as her attorneys to act jointly. That didn’t go so well.
The mother suffers from dementia. In 2008, the four children entered into contested guardianship litigation over their mother; two were appointed guardians by on January 23, 2009 by Order of Cameron J. That round of litigation cost the mother $30,022.22.
The two children who were not appointed were ordered to provide information about their mother’s assets and the original will of their mother to the guardians, and to transfer assets to the guardians. They did not act quickly.
Justice Brown states, at paragraph 14, that “The view…that the Order did not require compliance forthwith was dead wrong: when a court appoints guardians of the property of an incapable person, any other person with notice of the order is required to deliver up immediately to the guardians all property of the incapable person that he or she might possess.”
At paragraph 10, His Honour states that the “respondents acted contrary to their obligations under the SDA [Substitute Decisions Act] and they obstructed their mother’s guardians in discharging their statutory duties.”
The SDA at sections 33.1 requires guardians to make reasonable efforts to determine if an incapable person has a will; and sections 33.2(1) and (2) require a person who has the incapable person’s will to deliver it to the guardian “when required by the guardian.”
The Court did not approve of the children seeking further funds ($29,154.14) from their mother’s estate to “fund their continuing sibling rivalry.”
Justice Brown emphasized that “capacity litigation should reflect the basic purpose of the SDA – to protect the property of a person found to be incapable and to ensure that such property is managed wisely so that it provides a stream of income to support the needs of the incapable person: SDA, sections 32(1) and 37.”
His Honour states that members of the Bar should not presume that all parties to contested capacity litigation will have their costs paid by the estate of the incapable person.
This endorsement emphasizes that family fights cost everyone involved.
Enjoy the weekend.
Jonathan Morse – Click here for more information on Jonathan Morse.