Author: Ian Hull

28 Nov

Do you have gems or junk in your house?

Ian Hull Uncategorized 0 Comments

How much are your non-financial assets worth? If you’re planning your estate, it’s an important consideration, especially if you plan to make specific bequests.

But here’s the issue: the value of non-financial assets, such as furniture, art, and other collectibles, can change dramatically in just a few short years. Antique furniture is a great example.

An example from the New York Times – in 2002, a New York City auction house sold a set of eight George III-style carved mahogany chairs for $8,000. In 2016, a similar set sold for $350. It wasn’t a fluke. Prices for 18th and 19th century furniture are down about 80% from their highs just a couple of decades ago. This article provides a great analysis of the changing times. 

That’s bad news if your house is full of antique furniture, but if you’re a contrarian looking for a buying opportunity? Times couldn’t be better.

What items hold their value?

Yes, collect what you love – that’s rule number one, but if you’re looking for an edge in terms of value retention, this article from online journalism site Next Avenue provides some tips.

Here are a few from the article to consider:

  • Quality, one-of-a-kind or limited quantity pieces handmade by a skilled artist or craftsperson. Even with high quality original art, no one can predict future values, so diversify by artist and buy what you love.
  • High-quality items made by notable firms. Designer items – think Hermès or Tiffany – have stood the test of time and are more likely to hold their value or increase their value if kept in good condition.
  • Collectibles that remind us of our youth.This includes comics, toys, books – just about anything. But timing your sale is everything, with the best prices usually 25 to 35 years after they became popular.
  • Items that are made from material of value: The value of precious metals like gold and silver change over time, but they always have a liquid market value. So, items made from precious metals will always hold value based on the material it’s made from alone.

And if you’re looking for a bit of fun, this article highlights 10 types of collectibles that may surprise you in terms of value. The list includes items from Disney and McDonald’s, hot wheels cars, boardgames and maps.

Thanks for reading!
Ian Hull

14 Nov

Apples to apples – the Mac is under attack

Ian Hull Estate & Trust, Estate Planning, Health / Medical, In the News, Trustees, Uncategorized, Wills 0 Comments

I’ve always loved a fresh apple – so this article in the National Post about the birthplace of the McIntosh apple immediately caught my eye.

It seems that the original farm in Dundela, Ontario, where the McIntosh was discovered in 1811, has fallen into disrepair (Dundela is north of the St. Lawrence River between Kingston and Cornwall).

It also seems that the popularity of the McIntosh apple is in decline. If you regularly visit the apple section of your local grocery store, this will come as no surprise. Tastes are changing, and people are looking for less “tang” and more “crunchy and sweet”. One grower predicts that McIntosh apples will, for the most part, disappear from the marketplace in his lifetime.

While there’s a great story behind the rise of the McIntosh apple, Heritage Canada doesn’t have the funds to buy the farm and preserve the story. There’s a good chance that younger generations will know nothing about this apple and never taste one, even though the McIntosh apple became a 20th century North American success (and even had a line of computers named after it).

Should we care?

I grew up eating McIntosh apples. I bought them from Boy Scouts on their apple day and received them as a Halloween treat (reluctantly). They’re truly part of my history. But so are Eaton’s, Sam the Record Man, and those Lola triangle ice treats (created in the late 1950s but gone by the 1980s). Time and tastes move on. Maybe we should worry less about shrines to the past and simply enjoy what we have while we have it and look forward to the next great thing when the time is up.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to enjoy some uniquely Canadian traditions, like Hockey Night in Canada, Caesar cocktails, butter tarts, Victoria Day fireworks, and Crispy Crunch chocolate bars (in no particular order).

Thanks for reading!
Ian Hull 

31 Oct

Does your elderly parent need help?

Ian Hull Elder Law, Estate & Trust, Estate Planning, Health / Medical, Uncategorized Tags: 0 Comments

It’s a situation shared by many – you have a single elderly parent living alone. They’ve always been able to handle their day-to-day needs, with the occasional helping hand from family members. But something doesn’t seem right.

It often starts with your intuition. If you visit your parent regularly, it can be difficult to spot the signs of decline because these can happen gradually. They begin losing weight due to improper eating, or they start letting their appearance slide, or personal finance obligations – like credit card payments – are sometimes missed. Before you know it, those “something doesn’t seem right” thoughts become “something isn’t right” certainty.

Of course, there are more dramatic signs of not coping, everything from confused wandering, to car accidents, to kitchen fires. This article provides a great overview of 12 signs to look for in determining whether an elderly parent needs help.

Advance planning

While you can’t stop the aging process, you can take a few small steps now – while your parent is healthy and well – that can help ease the burden later if help is needed. Here are three to consider.

  1. Start the conversation: People in their 60s and 70s are usually active and independent. But if your parent has reached age 80, a conversation with your parent about “what if” is highly advisable, despite any discomfort in raising the topic. Are they open to move into a retirement home when the time comes? Would they prefer home-based care? Would they consider down-sizing now, rather than later? Your parent may not be in a position to express their thoughts in two or three years. By having the conversation now, you can factor your parent’s wishes into future decisions.
  2. Get a financial opinion: Seek the help of a financial advisor (yours or your parent’s) to determine what type of help is affordable if your parent is no longer able to care for themselves. Ideally, your parent should be involved in these conversations. This information will give both of you an idea of what care options are feasible in the future.
  3. Make a retirement home visit: If a retirement home is a possible future option, a tour of one or two homes is a great way to familiarize your parent with retirement home living. Even if your parent is years away from a move, the ideal time to tour places is when there’s no pressure or crisis. If a need to move arises later, your parent already has some comfort level with the options available.

This short article – although written by a retirement home provider – offers some great tips for starting a conversation.

Thank you for reading and Happy Halloween!
Ian Hull

17 Oct

Why staying well can be a living hell

Ian Hull Estate & Trust, Estate Planning, Health / Medical, In the News, Uncategorized Tags: , , , 1 Comment

Have you followed the wellness industry lately? The New York Times recently published a lengthy feature on Gwyneth Paltrow and her wellness company Goop. In it, the author describes a number of the “therapies” she learned about in the course of interviewing Paltrow and writing the article.

These ranged from more conventional wellness tips (healthy eating, cleanses, meditation) to far more radical ideas (bee-sting therapy, psychic vampire repellent, and jade eggs for vaginal therapies). It’s a fascinating (and somewhat disturbing) article. You can read it here.

Paltrow is by no means the only wellness guru out there promoting what she calls “radical wellness.” There are many – with many products and treatments to purchase if you are willing to give them a try. And despite the lack of scientific evidence that these treatments work (one woman recently died from bee-sting therapy) and the resounding criticism of many alternative treatments from the medical community, alternative wellness is flourishing.

Why is that? I can see three reasons:

  1. Social media makes it easier than ever for wellness “ideas” to go viral;
  2. Many people are suffering from a mental or physical condition that conventional therapies haven’t cured – and are desperate for answers; and
  3. The placebo effect results in many claims that a treatment “works” – and those good news stories are fed into the social media cycle.

Of course, some therapies may in fact work – but how can you tell truth from fiction? While there are hundreds of scientific studies that prove the health benefits of things like exercise, healthy eating and meditation, alternative therapies typically have only anecdotal evidence to back them up.

All to say, before you wade into a swarm of bees, get the facts first. This U.S. website lists five reliable online medical resources (such as the Mayo Clinic) that you can trust for information.

Thanks for reading!
Ian Hull

03 Oct

A hippie commune for seniors?

Ian Hull Elder Law, Estate & Trust, Estate Planning, Uncategorized Tags: , , , 0 Comments

Is it possible for today’s seniors to return to their hippie past? For some, plans are in the works.

Youth of the 1960s were a powerful social force that introduced a greater acceptance of community or “commune” living. While the concept never went mainstream, commune-type living is a niche arrangement that takes many forms today, from housing co-operatives in the city, to back-to-the-earth rural compounds, to religious groups seeking to live with their own kind.

If there’s a “hippie” feel to all of this, it’s for good reason. Many of these communities are progressive, socialist in leaning, and seeking a higher ideal in their living. It sure sounds like the 1960s.

Which takes us to commune living for seniors. I heard about this first from a group of men who played hockey together and lived in the same neighbourhood. Recognizing that many would need to “cash out” and sell their homes as they got older, the group lamented the possible loss of their community. One answer was to establish a single housing collective that everyone could move to to maintain their social bonds.

While that idea has never gotten beyond beer talk (at least not yet), I recently learned of another friend who was actively involved in a group that had moved beyond the talking stage and were scouting potential building sites. It may not be for me, but it certainly put the idea on my radar.

The push for senior communes

The attractiveness of senior communes is that it bypasses traditional retirement homes (too institutional) or living alone arrangements (no community, too lonely). A commune brings like-minded people together who can care for each other – and bring in help as needed as group members age.

Of course, there are countless hurdles to such arrangements that range from funding, to legal status, to rules relating to who can live in the complex and what the responsibilities of living there entail.

The Huffington Post ran an article about this recently.

One of the Toronto groups mentioned in the article, Baba Yaga Place, is in the process of making their community living project a reality. It’s modelled on a Paris commune of senior women that is up and running. The Paris commune took 13 years to establish, but Baba Yaga Place is hoping their development stage is quicker. You can follow their progress through their website.

Are you ready to channel your inner-hippie as you enter your senior years? You may soon have options.

Thanks for reading,
Ian Hull

19 Sep

Are you ready to be a 21st century retiree?

Ian Hull Elder Law, Estate & Trust, Estate Planning, Uncategorized Tags: , , , 0 Comments

We’re almost 19 years into the new century, so it seems a little late to be talking about the “new” 21st century version of retirement. Or does it?

For those in their 50s or 60s approaching retirement, I don’t think so. If you’re getting close to retirement, you likely have parents who retired in the last century. Pre-internet, pre-smartphone, pre-Amazon delivery on demand. There’s a good chance that at least one parent is still alive, and, like it or not, our “vision” of retirement is shaped by those living it now.

And those living it now made retirement decisions based on life in the 20th century. We may consciously want a different type of retirement, but subconsciously we can be influenced by our parent’s retirement path, whether we know it or not.

So, how could your retirement decisions be different than those of your parents? Here are a few things to consider.

  • Shrinking distances: Many retirees want to be in close proximity to their children and grandchildren – and that has influenced many in choosing a home location, even within the same city. But the emergence of advancements like self-driving cars (coming soon), discount airlines, and video calls has made it easier to connect. You may have a much broader radius for home location than you think.
  • Enhanced services: In today’s Amazon era, just about anything can be delivered to our doorstep. In Ontario, even the government-controlled liquor store can deliver to your home. This not only decreases your need to be living near certain retail locations, it could allow you to stay in your own home much longer than previous generations. Virtual health care (via text or video conference) has also emerged as a service that brings health care to you rather than the other way around.
  • Longevity: Life expectancy gains have slowed a bit recently (as noted by the Canadian Investment Review) but lifespans continue to increase and medical advancements will continue to improve health as we age. For you, it means planning for a longer, healthier life (think 90s, not 80s). This fact can influence many factors, from ability to pursue a second career, to the asset allocation for your retirement savings, to your ability to gift money to family members during your lifetime.

The 21st century has been with us for while – and there are more options out there than you may have realized for your retirement. Make sure your plans reflect it.

Thanks for reading!
Ian Hull

29 Aug

What are you reading this summer?

Ian Hull Estate & Trust, Estate Planning, In the News, Uncategorized Tags: , , , 0 Comments

The association between “reading” and “summer” may not be as strong as it used to be, but it’s a tough association to shake. A couple of generations ago, there was lots of time for summertime reading. Television had summer reruns (so not much to watch) and vacations were often modest (cottage, camping, road trips). There was plenty of down time.

Fast forward to today and the introduction of new summer shows plus the addition of Netflix means there is compelling television in every season. And vacations often involve a plane ride and a more active exploration of countries abroad. Reading can sometimes take a back seat.

That said, like the bell ringing for Pavlov’s dogs, when the first summer heat wave comes I want to have a book on the go. With Canada Day marking the beginning of the summer season for most of us, it seems fitting to look to Canadian writers for our summer reading inspiration.

The CBC has compiled a list of 100 must-read Canadian novels. If you’re looking for a good place to start, this is it.

Many (but by no means all) of these novels fall into a category that some would call serious literature – which might involve a little more heavy lifting by the reader than a crime thriller. That said, there are thrillers on the list, such as Linwood Barclay’s No Time for Goodbye.

And if you prefer to consider your book selection by author rather than title, the CBC has conveniently listed the “100 writers in Canada you need to know now.” From the humour of Terry Fallis, to the thrillers of Andrew Pyper and Sheri Lapena, to the extremely popular poetry of Rupi Kaur, you’re sure to find a book that makes your summer special.

Thanks for reading!
Ian Hull

15 Aug

Are you ready for bulletproof coffee?

Ian Hull Estate & Trust, Estate Planning, Health / Medical, In the News, Uncategorized Tags: , , 0 Comments

You know the old saying – you have to hear about something three times before you stop to consider it.

I took my full “three times” with bulletproof coffee. First it was seeing a sign in a coffee shop, then it was a display in a small boutique grocery store, and finally it was a personal trainer asking me “have you tried bulletproof coffee? It’s unbelievable.”

Okay, I had to find out what this stuff was. Even though it’s about 500 calories per serving (and typically consumed in place of breakfast), people claim you gain focus and energy – and lose weight. In a nutshell, bulletproof coffee is made in a blender with:

  • 8-12 ounces of brewed coffee
  • 1 teaspoon to 2 tablespoons of Brain Octane Oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons of grass-fed, unsalted butter or grass-fed ghee

Butter, oil, and coffee? From all the reviews I’ve read, it tastes way better than you might think. The bulletproof brew is based on a ketogenic diet, with high fat, moderate proteins, and low carbohydrates. It triggers weight loss through ketosis, a metabolic state triggered by a lack of carbs that kicks fat-burning into overdrive. The idea is that your body will draw upon fat stores as an energy source, rather than simple sugars like glucose, which is derived from carbohydrates.

It’s also supposed to boost cognitive function, bringing some mental clarity into your foggy morning routine (although regular coffee does that for most people).

Lots of people swear by bulletproof coffee, but none more than the people who make it. This blog describes it all:

And if you’re looking for a full, unbiased assessment of the product and the trend, you won’t get a more thorough analysis than this one.

I haven’t tried bulletproof coffee yet. But I will the next time I pass by a coffee shop that makes it. I’ve done my reading – now I want to see the results for myself.

Thanks for reading!
Ian Hull

01 Aug

A different approach to work-life balance

Ian Hull Estate & Trust, Estate Planning, Trustees, Uncategorized, Wills Tags: , , , , 0 Comments

A recent Globe and Mail article on vacation time caught my eye. In it, Elizabeth Renzetti notes an ADP Canada study that found that:

  • only one in three employees take all their allotted vacation time each year
  • 28% take less than half of their allotted time; and
  • nearly one-third of people admit to working during their holidays.

Renzetti points to a number of possible reasons for this – from affordability, to holding multiple jobs, to the fear that our employer will realize we’re dispensable if we’re gone and work life carries on. It’s complicated, but for whatever reason it seems that we North American workers aren’t as good as our European counterparts (who have much more generous vacation laws) at taking time off. As a result, the notion of work/life balance tilts strongly in favour of work.

Stop stressing – return to your roots

I think the work/life balance needs a new metaphor – and that’s the work/life tapestry. As a farming society 200 years ago, there was no separation of work life and personal life. You lived and worked on the farm and almost all of your life was based there. The change began in the industrial revolution, when factory work created a clear separation between a work life and a home life.

What technology is doing is bringing us closer to our agrarian roots. The separation is blurring, and for many of us, is once again non-existent. We can fight it – and try to recapture that separation – or we can accept it and support it. Personally, I think the smart answer is to accept and support it, because this is a change that I think is as inevitable as the change brought about by the industrial revolution.

Yes, employers can play a key role in supporting this tapestry, by providing employees with the flexibility and support they may need to address other issues that are happening in their life. But employees have a role too in accepting that our personal lives will sometimes creep into our work, and vice versa. Rather than stress about the fact that you need to take a morning on your Tuscan vacation to join a telephone conference, embrace the fact that technology now enables us to phone a client in the morning and bike the hills of Italy in the afternoon.

Perhaps we’d all take a little more time off we worried a little less about crossing work/life boundaries and embraced a tapestry approach.

Thanks for reading,
Ian Hull

18 Jul

Substantial Indemnity Costs Ordered Against Estate Trustees Personally

Ian Hull Beneficiary Designations, Estate & Trust, Estate Planning, Trustees, Uncategorized, Wills Tags: , , 0 Comments

Newlands Estate was a dispute between three siblings over a $30,000.00 painting.   The three siblings were beneficiaries and estate trustees of their late father’s estate.  Two of the siblings commenced an application in their capacity as Estate Trustee as against their brother and sought advice from the Court regarding the painting which they alleged was an asset of the Estate.  They also alleged breach of fiduciary duty and sought costs of the application on a substantial indemnity basis.

The respondent argued that the painting was gifted to him by his late father on the condition that he pay the value of same to the Estate.

In an earlier decision, released in November of 2017, Justice Spies dismissed the application finding that the painting was not an asset of the Estate and that the applicants were obliged to convey ownership of the painting to the respondent personally upon receipt of the full and final payment of $30,000.00.  The Court also found that the respondent had not breached his fiduciary duty as Estate Trustee.

In this follow up decision Justice Spies dealt with the Costs of the application.  The respondent sought substantial indemnity costs against the applicants personally in the amount of $214,832.00 or alternatively, partial indemnity of $148,218.00.

The Court found that the application was unnecessary and having considered their conduct throughout, ordered them to personally pay substantial indemnity costs to the respondent.

This case is an example of not only the risk of liability that estate trustees must keep in mind when acting in the fiduciary role of estate trustee, but also the risks of not accepting reasonable settlement offers.

Background of Settlement Offers Exchanged

Before the application was commenced the respondent offered to pay the agreed upon value of the subject painting ($30,000.00) to the Estate.  He also offered to resolve some other issues regarding the administration of the Estate. The applicants did not provide a formal response to this offer.

After the commencement of the proceeding, the respondent made five offers to settle on various dates.  These offers addressed the painting and other administration issues.

In February of 2017, the applicants presented a counter-offer consenting to the release of the painting to the respondent and provided that the application be withdrawn without costs and that the parties bear their own costs.  They declined to deal with any of the other terms.

During the course of the litigation, the action became the subject of three Orders setting out deadlines for mediation, cross-examination and scheduling a hearing.  The applicants were non-compliant with the Orders for cross-examination and caused the rescheduling of the hearing, all of which led to additional costs incurred by the respondent.

Analysis

The applicants argued that the respondent’s original offer was not an offer to settle within the meaning of Rule 49 of the Rules of Civil Procedure as it was made before the application began.  They acknowledged, however, that the Court has broad discretion to consider pre-litigation offers with respect to costs.

The respondent submitted that his original offer was an offer to settle that the applicants rejected and that this Court has broad discretion to consider any offer in deciding to award substantial indemnity costs.

The Court cited, with agreement, the view expressed in Brough and Whicher Ltd. v. Lebeznick, 2017 ONSC 1392, at para. 20, that a pre-litigation offer is relevant to the consideration of costs, as it can demonstrate whether a party was prepared to be reasonable from the outset and noted that “clearly” the respondent’s original offer indicates that he was prepared to be reasonable.

In the circumstances, Rule 49.10 would only entitle the respondent to partial indemnity costs.  The respondent, relying on the decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal in S & A Strasser Ltd. v. Richmond Hill (Town), [1990] O.J. No. 2321 (Ont. C.A.), argued that the Court has broad discretion to consider any offer in deciding to award substantial indemnity costs.

After reviewing the competing authorities, Justice Spies noted:

I do not understand the law to limit my discretion to award solicitor-client costs to only cases where unsubstantiated allegations of fraud, deceit and dishonesty have been made. It has been repeated in a number of cases that the trial judge in Strasser said: “I think this case, in these circumstances, screams for solicitor-and-client costs.”  Furthermore, Rule 57.01 (4) gives me authority to award all or part of the respondent’s costs on a solicitor-client basis and Rule 57.01 (1) permits me to consider any offer to settle and Rule 57.01(1) (f) (i) provides that I may consider whether any step in the proceeding was improper, vexatious or unnecessary.

The Court noted that the applicants misused their authority, brought an application that was improper, vexatious and unnecessary to punish the respondent, who was a sibling with whom they did not get along.  They used their position as Estate Trustees to shield themselves from personal liability and ran up costs of a quarter million dollars ostensibly to recover a $30,000 painting:

In my view, not ordering them to fully reimburse John for his legal costs would bring the administration of justice into disrepute.

The applicants’ argument that the respondent should only be entitled to costs up to the date of their counter-offer was not accepted in light of their refusal to deal with other issues pertaining to the administration of the Estate and the fact that by the time that offer was served the respondent had incurred substantial legal fees.

Costs were fixed at $180,167 plus HST for a total of $203,589 payable by the applicants personally.  Given the applicants’ conduct, this was not a case where costs ought to be paid from the Estate.

The applicants were also ordered to pay the respondent’s full disbursements minus what had been paid out of the Estate.

Takeaways

Substantial litigation costs to be paid personally by an estate trustee is not common, but well within the discretion of the presiding Judge.  Parties to estate litigation should assess their personal exposure to costs before launching a lawsuit or motion, similar to those involved in civil litigation cases.

 

 

Thanks for reading,
Ian Hull

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