No Love Lost: Sisters, Parents, Loans and Forgiveness

September 6, 2019 Paul Emile Trudelle Beneficiary Designations, Estate & Trust, Estate Litigation, Estate Planning, Support After Death, Trustees, Wills 0 Comments

“There is no love lost between sisters [K] and [A].” So starts the endorsement in Nutzenberger v. Pryde, 2019 ONSC 5030 (CanLII).

There, the parents made a loan to A of $75,000. In their wills, the residue of the estate is to pass to the surviving parent. Both wills contained a clause that provided that if the other spouse was not living on the 30th day following the first spouse’s death, the $75,000 was to be forgiven.

Mother died on September 25, 2015. Father died on May 30, 2016.

K, as estate trustee of mother’s estate, brought a claim against A for the repayment of the loan. A moved for summary judgment on the claim.

Justice Harris agreed that summary judgment was appropriate. There were no primary facts in dispute, and no credibility issues. He dismissed the claim on two basis: first, mother’s estate had no standing to bring the claim, and second, the loan had been forgiven according to the terms of the wills.

On the first point, the loan came from father’s assets. Any interest that mother had in the loan passed to father under the terms of her will. Only father, or father’s estate had standing to pursue the loan.

Secondly, although the terms of the wills forgiving the loans were not “a model of drafting dexterity, to put it mildly”, the court interpreted the wills to mean that the intention of the parents was that either one could call in the loan while alive, but upon the death of the survivor, if no action was taken, the loan would be forgiven.

In determining the intention of the parties, the court looked at other terms of the wills. One term in both wills gave the estate trustee the discretion to pursue a loan. Another term acknowledged that a certain advance was in fact a gift. The term in question was “an awkward hybrid”. However, the court was able to conclude that the intention was that the loan would be forgiven if the surviving parent did not take any steps to collect on it.

As usual, more careful drafting may have avoided the litigation.

Thank you for reading.

Paul Trudelle

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