Author: Ian Hull
Last week I tweeted an article from Advisor.ca on Seg Funds for Estate Planning: Advantages and Pitfalls, which discusses the benefits of using segregated funds as part of estate planning and notes some areas that may lead to issues. Segregated funds are a type of investment fund available through life insurance companies, where the funds are kept “segregated” from the general assets of the company. They have an advantage in estate planning in that, as an insurance product, the beneficiary is named on the plan itself, and thus, provided that the estate has not been named as beneficiary, the proceeds pass outside of the estate, avoiding probate fees.
One possible benefit of segregated funds, as noted by the article, is protection from creditors. Because the segregated fund passes directly to the beneficiary, it is not an estate asset, and is not available to satisfy creditors’ claims. However, it is noted that the creditor protection may be lost in certain circumstances, including if it was purchased at a time when the investor knew that he or she may be subject to a creditor claim.
When considering a segregated fund as a way to minimize probate fees, it is important to consider additional fees associated with such funds. Segregated funds usually have a higher management expense ratio (MER) than mutual funds. If the amount that would be saved in probate fees is less than the MER, the segregated fund may not result in any net savings.
Lastly it is important to be aware of any beneficiary designations in a will that may create possible conflicts with the designated beneficiary of the segregated fund. Pursuant to s. 51 of the Succession Law Reform Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. S.26, a beneficiary designation can be made either by an instrument or by will, as long as the will designation refers expressly to a plan. Section 52(2) provides that a later designation revokes an earlier designation. Therefore if a will is executed after the beneficiary of the segregated fund is designated, and makes a designation that differs from that in the fund, the designation in the will revokes the designation in the fund.
The article provides the example of Orpin v Littlechild, 2011 ONSC 7695. In that case, the testator had a segregated fund held in an RRSP which designated his sons as beneficiaries. Following this designation, the testator executed a new will which designated his spouse “as the sole beneficiary of all moneys that I may have at the date of my death in any registered retirement savings plan, registered retirement income fund, registered pension plan, registered investment fund or any other similar device”. The court then had to decide to whom the fund would pass. Despite the fact that the will did not specifically refer to the insurance policy, the broad language used in the will was sufficient to change the designation of the segregated fund.
There are other similar products to segregated funds, such as life insurance policies which can have similar benefits and effects. However, it is important to be familiar with a variety of options in order to properly advise clients on what strategy may work best for them.
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Last year, a regulation to the Estate Administration Tax Act, 1998, S.O. 1998, c. 34, Sched. (the “EATA”) came into effect requiring estate trustees to file an Estate Information Return (“EI Return”) with the Ministry of Finance within 90 days after issuance of a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee. The EI Return must include information with respect to the “value of the estate”. Under the EATA, this term is defined as “the value which is required to be disclosed under section 32 of the Estates Act (or a predecessor thereof) of all the property that belonged to the deceased person at the time of his or her death less the actual value of any encumbrance on real property that is included in the property of the deceased person.”
Section 32 of the Estates Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. E.21, among other things, provides in subsection (3) that “Where the application or grant is limited to part only of the property of the deceased, it is sufficient to set forth in the statement of value only the property and value thereof intended to be affected by such application or grant.” This means that any assets that are governed by a Will that is not being submitted for probate are not required to be disclosed on the EI Return. Accordingly, if an individual has multiple wills, any assets governed by their Secondary Will do not have to be disclosed on the EI Return.
Multiple wills are used in estate planning to deal with a testator’s assets and belongings that do not require a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee to transfer and distribute, therefore avoiding the need to pay Estate Administration Tax on the value of those assets and belongings. With the introduction of the EI Return, there may be increasing motivation for testators to use multiple wills in their estate planning. In providing their valuation of the estate being administered, estate trustees will now be required to substantiate the valuation used. This may require formal valuations, such as appraisals, which may result in significant costs to the estate.
For example, if a testator has a number of pieces of art and jewelry, which can be transferred without a Certificate of Appointment, the estate trustee would be required to have appraisals performed on each piece in order to substantiate their valuation for the EI Return. In this situation, it may be more efficient, both in terms of cost and in terms of the time required to complete the formal valuations, to distribute those assets through a Secondary Will. Testators and solicitors should consider whether the costs of determining the value for each and every item or asset may be higher than the expenses involved in preparing multiple wills. It may be that, with the EI Return now in effect, a lower threshold for the value of a testator’s assets may justify an estate plan that involves multiple wills.
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It is well-known that executors and estate trustees have fiduciary obligations. We have discussed some estate trustee liabilities and obligations on this blog before. Although it may seem obvious that estate trustees must act selflessly and in the best interests of the beneficiaries and the estate, a recent decision from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice provides an instance where estate trustees were held liable for failing to carry out the terms of a will and self-dealing, even by passively standing by.
In Cahill v Cahill, 2016 ONSC 2863, the named estate trustees of an estate were held jointly and severally liable for failing to establish a trust pursuant to the Deceased’s will. The relevant facts are as follows: The Deceased left a Last Will and Testament naming two of his adult children, Sheila and Kevin, as Estate Trustees. The terms of the Will provided that Sheila and Kevin were to set aside $100,000.00 in a trust fund for the benefit of another of the Deceased’s adult children, Patrick, and that he would receive $500.00 per month from the trust until his death or until the principal was reduced to nil. The funds to set up the trust came from the sale of the Deceased’s home, and were put into a Non-registered Investment Plan with London Life (the “London Life Plan”), owned by Kevin.
For a period of time, Patrick received the payments of $500.00 per month, until the summer of 2014, when several of his cheques were returned for insufficient funds. He then discovered that in May 2012, Kevin had withdrawn the principal remaining in the London Life Plan, which was approximately $92,000.00 at the time, as a mortgage with respect to some commercial premises purchased by him for his business, and lost the funds when his business failed and the bank realized on the property.
The Court found that both Kevin and Sheila were in breach of their fiduciary obligations to the beneficiaries of the Estate, as they had failed to carry out the instructions set out in the Will. In fact, the Court found that the trust fund provided for by the Will was never actually set up. Even though Kevin opened the London Life Plan with the $100,000.00 amount, and he was noted as the legal owner, his application for the London Life Plan did not mention a trust, Patrick was not disclosed as a beneficiary, and Patrick therefore did not have equitable title to the Plan. The Plan therefore did not meet the requirements for a trust. The court held that Kevin’s self-dealing by using the funds for his personal benefit was a “wrongful and deliberate misappropriation of the funds” and that he had breached his fiduciary obligations by his conduct in this respect.
Throughout these events, Sheila had been quite passive. She claimed that she had relied on Kevin to do most of the work required to administer the Estate, as he had expertise in the field of financial management. However, the court held that the case law is clear that there is no distinction between sophisticated and unsophisticated individuals in fulfilment of the obligations of Estate Trustees. As such, if Sheila was not confident in her knowledge of the role, she should have either obtained the necessary guidance, or renounced as Estate Trustee. Furthermore, she failed to discharge her obligations by failing to ensure that all proper steps were taken to set up the trust fund. If it had been set up, Kevin was to be the sole trustee, but as the court found that it was not, in fact, established, there was never a point at which Sheila was relieved of her obligations as Estate Trustee.
Ultimately, the court held that Kevin and Sheila were jointly and severally liable and were required to fund the trust in accordance with the terms of the will. It is therefore vital to always keep in mind the seriousness of the duties and obligations of estate trustees.
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We blogged about the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (“ORPP”) some time ago when it was first proposed and introduced. The ORPP will begin on January 1, 2017, and will be fully implemented by January 1, 2020. According to the Ontario government website with respect to the ORPP, studies show that people are not able to save enough money for retirement and that the Canada Pension Plan (“CPP”) is insufficient, stating that the maximum yearly benefit from CPP in 2015 is $12,780 and the average yearly benefit is $7,000.
Both the ORPP itself and the contribution rates for the ORPP will be phased in from 2017 to 2020, as set out in this article from the National Law Review. For instance, the initial implementation of the ORPP in January 2017 will begin with large employers, at a rate of contribution of 0.8 percent by both the employer and employee (for a total of 1.6 percent). This will then be increased to 1.6 percent each the following year and further increased to 1.9 percent each starting in 2019. Similar phasing will take place as medium-sized employers begin the ORPP in January 2018, small employers in January 2019, and employers with registered plans that do not meet the comparability threshold in January 2020. Ontario’s ORPP website also provides a helpful chart describing the phases that can be viewed here.
Last month, Ontario reached an understanding with the federal government that ORPP premiums will be collected through the existing CPP framework. Ontario also delayed the date to begin collecting premiums from large employers who will be included in the first phase of implementation. Although they will be required to register as of January 2017, they will not be required to remit premiums until January 2018.
Once it has been fully phased-in, the contribution rate will be a combined 3.8 percent of pensionable earnings. For an individual earning $50,000.00 per year, for example, who contributed to ORPP for 40 years and retired at age 65, this results in an ORPP payment of $7,138 per year, in addition to CPP, OAS, and other retirement savings.
It is stated that the ORPP is intended to complement existing retirement savings arrangements, not replace them. For many individuals, there will still be a need to make individual plans with respect to retirement saving and planning. As always, it is important to consider you own individual needs during retirement and consult advisors who can help you make and implement a comprehensive plan.
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According to the News Release, the Finding Your Way program is a “multicultural safety campaign that helps people with dementia stay safe and active, while helping to prevent the risk of wandering and going missing.” It notes that the program’s training services will be enhanced this year to include both first-responders as well as supportive housing and retirement home staff.
The Finding Your Way program is specifically focused on addressing and preventing individuals with dementia from going missing and states that 60% of people with dementia related memory problems become lost at some point. Their website provides some resources, including checklists for What to do when a person with dementia goes missing and What to do when reuniting after a missing incident. They also provide some suggestions of ways to reduce the risks associated with dementia. The first suggestion is to stay safe at home, by considering the best living arrangements for someone with dementia and ensuring that individuals with dementia maintain their health. The second suggestion is to be a part of the community while reducing the risk of becoming lost by carrying identification at all times, ensuring that someone knows where the senior with dementia is going, and dressing appropriately for the weather. The third suggestion encourages getting around in the community by urging seniors with dementia to get to know their neighbours and professionals in the neighbourhood (i.e. pharmacists, grocers, bankers), as well as participating in social activities.
The Alzheimer Society of Ontario’s website provides some “Dementia numbers in Canada” stating that in 2011, 14.9 per cent of Canadians 65 and older were living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, with the figure expecting to increase. It also notes that one in five Canadians aged 45 and older provides some form of care to seniors living with long-term health problems. In 2011, family caregivers spent over 444 million unpaid hours looking after someone with cognitive impairment, including dementia. It is clear that dementia affects a great deal of people in Canada and in Ontario.
The Minister Responsible for Seniors Affairs stated in the News Release that “[o]ur communities have an important role to play in helping keep people with dementia safe, and this funding will help the Alzheimer Society of Ontario to deliver these resources to even more Ontarians.”
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When a will is challenged on the basis of testamentary capacity, one of the first considerations is whether the testator underwent a capacity assessment during their lifetime. Unfortunately, when it turns out that their capacity was never formally assessed, this presents a challenge for both sides of the proceeding. In this situation, a retrospective capacity assessment may be done by a medical professional. A retrospective capacity assessment usually involves a review of the testator’s medical records, any relevant lawyers’ files, and any other relevant material. The retrospective capacity assessor will conduct their assessment in the context of the legal test for capacity.
In will challenge cases, the medical records are often crucial. As these records may be some of the only evidence available that speaks to the testator’s condition and state of mind, it is vital that judges are able to understand the technical points and the effect of the evidence that is found in the records. However, most judges do not have the specialized medical knowledge required to come to a fulsome understanding of the evidence and come to the proper conclusions. Particularly given the frequently voluminous amount of medical records that may be produced by hospitals and health-care institutions for a particular patient, it can be difficult to wade through and identify the key elements. As such, the use of experts who do, in fact, possess specialized medical knowledge is important in order to assist judges.
However, even the presentation of technical medical evidence by a medical professional can be complicated and time-consuming. One method of presenting expert evidence, referred to as “hot tubbing”, originated in Australia and involves a process whereby all experts in a proceeding present their evidence concurrently, as a panel. Some of the benefits linked to this type of presentation include shortening the length of expert evidence in order to make a more efficient use of the court’s time, and assisting the judge in understanding the complexity and volume of the evidence.
This type of presentation of expert evidence may be useful in the case of a will challenge, where there is disagreement between opposing parties’ experts, and voluminous medical evidence that must be presented. “Hot tubbing” allows the experts to be questioned together. As such, it can help emphasize the key issues, the areas where the experts disagree, and the areas where they agree. By identifying areas of agreement, this can help reduce the time spent on those areas, and free up more time to focus on contentious matters. “Hot tubbing” can also identify where the experts may have made different assumptions and how this has affected their conclusion, and can also allow for a more debate-like discussion, where experts can challenge the other’s evidence and provide further evidence to support their own, opposing position.
The practice of “hot tubbing” is not frequently used in Canada. It can also have its downsides if one expert tends to dominate the other in presenting their evidence, or if the experts do not respond well to the more collaborative approach. As with any presentation of evidence, it can be difficult to predict exactly how it will come out at the time of trial. It takes planning and preparation to ensure that evidence is presented as efficiently and clearly as possible.
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Estate planning and planning for the future are sometimes difficult tasks, particularly when it comes to end-of-life planning. When forced to confront their own mortality, many people are hesitant to dive in and make a plan. Unfortunately, this may result in their wishes being unknown if an emergency situation arises.
In Ontario, when a person is incapable of making their own decisions with respect to their care, the Health Care Consent Act (the “HCCA”) and the Substitute Decisions Act (the “SDA”) allow others to make decisions on the incapable person’s behalf. Section 20 of the HCCA sets out a list of persons who may give or refuse consent to treatment on behalf of someone who is incapable to give their own consent at the time. The list of people who may make decisions is as follows:
- The incapable person’s guardian of the person, if the guardian has authority to give or refuse consent to the treatment.
- The incapable person’s attorney for personal care, if the power of attorney confers authority to give or refuse consent to the treatment.
- The incapable person’s representative appointed by the Board under section 33, if the representative has authority to give or refuse consent to the treatment.
- The incapable person’s spouse or partner.
- A child or parent of the incapable person, or a children’s aid society or other person who is lawfully entitled to give or refuse consent to the treatment in the place of the parent. This paragraph does not include a parent who has only a right of access. If a children’s aid society or other person is lawfully entitled to give or refuse consent to the treatment in the place of the parent, this paragraph does not include the parent.
- A parent of the incapable person who has only a right of access.
- A brother or sister of the incapable person.
- Any other relative of the incapable person.
A person included in this list may give or refuse consent only if no person described in an earlier paragraph is willing or available to do so. The SDA, in turn, deals with Powers of Attorney and Guardians.
If you have not taken the time to think through your wishes with respect to treatment and communicate them to others, it is difficult to know whether your substitute decision maker under the HCCA or SDA will make the choice that you would have made yourself, had you been capable. One way of dealing with this issue is by clearly expressing your wishes, such as with a “living will”. The Ministry of the Attorney General describes a “living will” as an expression that is “sometimes used to refer to a document in which you write down what you want to happen if you become ill and can’t communicate your wishes about treatment…[t]he term ‘advance directive’ is also frequently used to refer to such a document.” The Ministry of the Attorney General also notes that you can include your treatment wishes in a Power of Attorney document to ensure that your attorney is aware of them.
Pursuant to the SDA s. 66(3), guardians of the person and attorneys for personal care have a duty to make decisions on an incapable person’s behalf in accordance with the incapable person’s wishes, if known. The guardian or attorney must also use reasonable diligence to ascertain whether the incapable has set out such wishes. Accordingly, it is important to consider including your wishes in your Power of Attorney for personal care and communicating them to your attorney, to ensure that your wishes are known.
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In Kuchta v The Queen, 2015 TCC 289, the Tax Court of Canada had occasion to consider some interesting issues with respect to the meaning of “spouse” in the Income Tax Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. 1 (5th Supp.) (the “ITA”) and a spouse’s joint and several liability for a deceased spouse’s tax liabilities on death.
Ms. Kuchta was married to Mr. Juba (the “Deceased”) at the time of his death in 2007. Ms. Kuchta was the designated beneficiary of two of the Deceased’s RRSPs, and she accordingly received $305,657.00 upon the Deceased’s death. The Deceased was assessed by the Minister of National Revenue (the “Minister”) and found to owe $55,592.00 in respect of his 2006 taxation year. After the Deceased’s Estate failed to pay that amount, the Minister assessed Ms. Kuchta for the amount owing, pursuant to s. 160(1) of the ITA. This section provides that where a person has transferred property to their spouse, the transferee and transferor are jointly and severally liable to pay the transferor’s tax.
Ms. Kuchta’s position was that, three of the four requirements of s. 160(1) were met, but that the last requirement had not been met. Ms. Kuchta stated that she was not the Deceased’s spouse at the time of transfer of the RRSPs, as it occurred immediately after the Deceased’s death, at which point their marriage had ended. The Court, therefore, had to consider (a) when should the relationship between Ms. Kuchta and the Deceased be determined; and (b) does the word ‘spouse’ in s. 160(1) include a person who was, immediately before a tax debtor’s death, his or her spouse?
With respect to issue (a), if the relationship is determined at the time that Ms. Kuchta was designated as beneficiary of the RRSP, they would have been married, whereas if the relationship were determined at the time of transfer, they would not have been married. The Court easily concluded that the relationship should be determined at the time of transfer. It then had to determine whether the word “spouse” in s. 160(1) is sufficiently broad to include Ms. Kuchta at the time of transfer. That is, whether it included widows and widowers.
The Court undertook a “textual, contextual and purposive analysis of the word ‘spouse’ in subsection 160(1).” After a lengthy and thorough analysis, the Court concluded that the word ‘spouse’ must have been intended to include widows and widowers. It found that Parliament used both the legal and colloquial meanings of the term in the ITA, which differ from each other, thus presenting conflicting interpretations and ambiguity. However, the purposive analysis was found to point to an interpretation that includes widows and widowers.
Ultimately, therefore, Ms. Kuchta was found jointly and severally liable for the Deceased’s unpaid taxes, as a result of the beneficiary designation of the Deceased’s RRSPs. It will be interesting to see how this case applies going forward, and we should keep in mind that the Minister may be able to collect on unpaid taxes from the beneficiary of a Deceased’s RRSP.
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The World Health Organization defines Elder Abuse as a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring in any relationship where there is an expectation of trust that causes harm or distress to an older person. According to the Ontario Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (“ONPEA”), the number of seniors over 65 in Ontario is expected to increase to almost 4.2 million by 2036, and tragically it is estimated that between 2% and 10% of older adults will experience some form of elder abuse each year.
There are generally considered to be five categories of elder abuse: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, financial abuse, and neglect.
Physical abuse can include physical force or violence and may result in physical discomfort, pain, or injury. This can include inappropriate use of drugs or restraints. Sexual abuse involves any sexual behaviour directed toward an older adult without their consent, and also includes contact with older adults who are incapable of consenting. Psychological or emotional abuse includes verbal or non-verbal acts that lessen a person’s sense of dignity, identity, or self-worth. This can be manifested in multiple ways, such as isolation, hurtful comments or lack of acknowledgement. Financial abuse is the most common form, and ONPEA defines it as “any improper conduct, done with or without the informed consent of the senior that results in a monetary or personal gain to the abuser and/or monetary or personal loss for the older adult”.
A recent article in the Psychiatric Times discussed why so many cases of elder abuse go unreported. The author suggests that this could be due to shame or humiliation, or the victim may refuse to acknowledge the fallacy of the scam that took advantage of them. An individual who has been the victim of elder abuse may not conceive of themselves as a victim, resulting in a failure to report abuse, or in denial if questioned. Additionally, an older adult who was rendered particularly vulnerable due to incapacity may be unaware of abuse or unable to report it.
The article also states that many actions that constitute abuse are often not recognized as such by the abused party: “The label ‘abuse’ tends to connote adversarial and overtly hostile action, but of the ‘weapons’ of abusers, affection is especially effective because it serves to make the abused person complicit in the acts—he or she really wants to comply with the abuser.“
There are many concerns surrounding elder abuse and elder care. It is important to be aware of such concerns and to stay informed in order to bring more attention to issues affecting older adults.
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A recent decision of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice considers life insurance as a Succession Law Reform Act (“SLRA”) s. 72 asset, and the circumstances in which a beneficiary or estate trustee will be ordered to make a support payment personally.
In Bormans v Estate of Bormans et al, 2016 ONSC 428, the Applicant (“Gabriele“), made a claim for dependant’s support under Part V of the SLRA. Gabriele had been married to John Bormans (the “Deceased”) for 38 years, until their divorce in 2010. They had two children together, Jessica and Amanda.
The court order granting Gabriele and the Deceased’s divorce provided for spousal support payments of $500 per month from the Deceased to Gabriele. At the time of the divorce, the Deceased made a warranty to Gabriele that she was the beneficiary of his group life insurance policy which secured his support payments on his death. This term was not included in the court order.
After the Deceased’s death in March 2014, Gabriele enquired of the Deceased’s group life insurance company and was advised that the employer had terminated that coverage. After making a claim in writing for support under the SLRA, Gabriele learned that Jessica had received $70,000 in insurance proceeds as the beneficiary of a separate insurance policy on the Deceased’s life. Jessica was also named as estate trustee in the Deceased’s Will.
Prior to being served with Gabriele’s application for dependant’s support, Jessica had spent a portion of the insurance proceeds. However, she continued to spend the proceeds after she had been served with Gabriele’s application, despite her obligation under s. 67(1) of the SLRA, not to make any distribution of the deceased’s estate.
Usually, if the beneficiary named in a life insurance policy is someone other than the estate, the proceeds pass outside of the estate. However, according to s. 72 of the SLRA, such assets can be deemed part of the estate for the purpose of ascertaining the value of the estate and for funding an order for support of dependants. Therefore, according to s. 72(1)(f) and (f.1), the court found that the life insurance proceeds paid to Jessica were to be deemed part of the Deceased’s estate.
The court found that Gabriele was a dependant of the Deceased under s. 57 of the SLRA and that Jessica was not a dependant. The quantum of support to which Gabriele was entitled was held to be $40,000. Although less than the full amount of the life insurance policy, the court held that the portion of the proceeds spent by Jessica personally prior to notice of Gabriele’s application was not deemed to be available to fund the dependant’s support, nor were the amounts expended for the purpose of her obligations as estate trustee. However, because Jessica was the beneficiary of the funds, and had failed to comply with her obligations as estate trustee under s. 67(1), she was required to personally pay the award of $40,000 to Gabriele.
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