A Touch of Common Sense: Re Estate of Daniel O’Donnell
In Re Estate of Michael O’Flynn, 2009 CanLII 57149 (ON S.C.), the Honourable Justice Brown encouraged the development of a culture of common sense in processing applications for certificates of appointment of estate trustee. This approach is further illustrated in the recent decision in Re Estate of Daniel O’Donnell, 2010.
In Re Estate of Daniel O’Donnell, the date of Mr. O’Donnell’s death was mistakenly listed as May 1, 2009 (not May 2) on the application for a certificate of appointment and resulting certificate. This mistake did not stop the administration of the estate. Mr. O’Donnell’s Will named Mr. Wilson as the sole estate trustee and sole beneficiary, and Mr. Wilson distributed virtually all of the estate assets to himself. He died a short time later, in July 2009. The administration of Mr. O’Donnell’s estate was yet to be completed, but the alternate estate trustee in Mr. O’Donnell’s Will had renounced her right to act.
Accordingly, the named estate trustee for Mr. Wilson’s estate, Ms. Thomas, applied for a certificate of appointment as succeeding estate trustee with a will for Mr. O’Donnell’s estate. The application materials filed by Mr. Wilson’s estate trustee listed May 2, 2009 as Mr. O’Donnell’s date of death. The original error in the date of death went unnoticed for some time.
When the mistake in the date of Mr. O’Donnell’s death was finally identified, the Toronto Estates Office took the position that the applicant should bring an ex parte motion to correct the error made in the original certificate before the second certificate could be issued. Ms. Thomas argued, among other things, that she should not have to bear the cost of correcting a mistake she had not made and that the cost of preparing such a motion was out of proportion to what was at stake in the succeeding application (the succeeding application was only needed to complete tax filings and distribute the remaining assets valued at only $1,000.00.)
Justice Brown’s solution was as follows. If the Estates Office identifies a discrepancy in the date of death between the original certificate and the application for a succeeding certificate, it should request an affidavit from the applicant that confirms that a mistake was made on the original certificate and attests to the correct date of death. Upon receiving such an affidavit, the Estates Registrar can then process the application for a succeeding certificate using the corrected date of death, and make any required changes to the original certificate and Ontario’s central registry which records information regarding estates.
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Bianca V. La Neve – Click here to learn more about Bianca La Neve.