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More on Rectification

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe power of the Court to rectify any sort of legal instrument is a potent remedy; Canada (Attorney General) v. Fairmont Hotels Inc., 2016 SCC 56 at paras. 12-15 and 57 (S.C.C.). Ultimately, whether the context is a contract or a Will, the rationale is very much an equitable one – it is unfair to take advantage of an innocent mistake. In the context of rectification of drafting error in Wills, the
re are three requirements:

(1) where there is an accidental slip or omission because of a typographical or clerical error;

(2) where the testator’s instructions have been misunderstood; or

(3) where the testator’s instructions have not been carried out.

See Robinson Estate v. Rondel, 2011 ONCA 493 (Ont. C.A.).

A recent example is The Bank of Nova Scotia Trust Company v Haugrud, 2016 ONSC 8150 (Ont. S.C.J.). Here an innocent mistake was manifested on the face of the Will in that there was a mistaken reference to the wrong class of shares in a certain corporation owned by the deceased. The Hon. Justice Mesbur held:

[19]                   Here, the lawyer who drafted the will unequivocally admits his mistakes.  The context for the mistakes is confirmed by the accountant, who sets out the background of how the mistakes occurred.  Essentially, the confusion around the class of shares arose because the accountant was referring to the initial reorganization plan for Davwel, instead of the slightly different plan that was ultimately put in place.  Although the deceased clearly and accurately set out the shareholdings in his letter to the accountant, neither the accountant nor the lawyer used the correct information, and instead maintained their reference to the earlier plan regarding the class of shares.   I conclude it was an accidental slip or omission that resulted in the mistake regarding the class of shares.

[20]                   I also conclude the drafting solicitor misunderstood or failed to carry out the testator’s instructions, in that he failed to refer to either the correct class of Davwel shares or to the correct number of shares that would have to be redeemed in order to carry out the testator’s instructions.

[21]                   All three criteria in Robinson have been met…

Here the power to rectify allowed the situation to be corrected. One might note that this equitable power is especially useful in that it provides the Court with a greater power than merely correcting a false description. In such cases the maxim demonstratio non nocet, cum de corpore constat (‘a false or mistaken description does not vitiate’) operates such that non-essential or surplus words which are inaccurate may be ignored provided that the remaining true descriptive words are sufficiently certain; Re Beauchamp (1975), 8 OR (2d) 2 (H.C.J.). It does not, however, allow for the addition of of the words that were in fact intended by the deceased.

Have a nice weekend!


Other articles you might enjoy:

Material Changes to the Equitable Doctrine of Rectification

The Doctrine of Rectification and Proof in Solemn Form

Rectification – When can a will be changed?