Author: 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

04 Jul

Travel much? Currency exchange is getting easier

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

We’ve seen it first hand in many estates situations: families with property and assets in different countries. In the estate administration process, this can present a host of problems if proper planning hasn’t been done.

But just dealing with foreign property day-to-day has its challenges. And banking and currency issues are front and centre. Do you need to open a local bank account? What’s the best way to transfer money in different currencies? Is there an easy way to pay ongoing bills and taxes in your foreign country of choice?

Cheaper transfers

Banks have had a lucrative monopoly over money transfers and foreign currency transactions for some time – and costs are high. If there was an area of banking that was ripe for innovation, this was one of them.

Enter TransferWise – a UK-based fintech company that has turned the currency conversion and transfer process on its head. The key innovation is that TransferWise doesn’t move money across borders. The system works on a peer-to-peer basis – if someone wants to convert their Canadian dollars to euros, TransferWise finds someone who wants to transfer money in the opposite direction (euros into Canadian dollars). As a result, Canadian dollars stay in Canada and euros stay in their euro country.

There are no fees hidden in the exchange. You get the mid-market exchange rate – the one you’ll find in the financial press. TransferWise then adds its fee to each transaction. The fee is clearly disclosed, so you know exactly what you’re paying. More importantly, the cost of the transfer is far less than what you’d get with one of the banks, the company claims up to 8 times less. You can find the Canadian site here.

International debit card coming

TransferWise just announced the next stage in its evolution – with the Canadian launch next year of a borderless debit MasterCard. The card will let you hold and spend a balance in multiple currencies, and, again, with lower fees than traditional banks.

TransferWise is just one of several innovative companies that are changing traditional banking in different parts of the world – but its focus on Canada sets it apart, at least for now. So, if you travel widely, or have assets abroad, you will soon have a new option for money management.

Thank you for reading,
Ian Hull

20 Jun

Are you ready for weed wine?

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

I came across a blog recently, amustreadblog.com, written by Toronto sommelier Debbie Gordon. She has a lot of great insights about wine from Canada and around the world, and I enjoyed her profile of a man I’d never heard of – Anthony von Mandl – who heads up some of British Columbia’s leading wineries, including Mission Hill.

But before producing award-winning wines that have won honours around the world, Anthony gave the world a much humbler beverage that made him a fortune: Mike’s Hard Lemonade. I realized that there are a lot of different personalities in the wine world, and a lot of different paths to the top.

Then another blog entry caught my eye that reaffirmed the “different personalities” viewpoint – cannabis-infused wine.

Yes, a California winery, Rebel Coast, is marketing Marijuana Infused Sauvignon Blanc. California laws don’t allow alcohol and THC to mix, so the weed takes priority, with 16mg THC and 0.5% alcohol. As Gordon notes, “you may get high but you definitely won’t get drunk.”

I don’t know about you but as an Ontario resident, I’m still getting used to seeing bottles of beer in my local No Frills, let alone weed-infused wine. But as legalization of cannabis comes to Canada, we’re going to be seeing a lot of things that we’ve never seen before. Weed wine may be one of them.

So, what does it taste like? Gordon attended a tasting and gave this description.

“I think it’s fair to say the blend is aromatically unique from the Sauvignon Blanc I’m accustomed to. I smell citrus, hops and something else … Ragweed?  It’s herbal. I tweet “grass” since I don’t want to offend. On the palate? I’m getting something akin to Mello Yello and aging asparagus. Also, higher acidity and rustic, savoury, herb-de-Provence flavours. “Notes of freshly picked pot,” the millennial to my right, knowingly adds.”

I don’t know about you, but I’ll likely be sticking to my inexpensive THC-free house wine.

Thank you for reading,
Ian Hull

06 Jun

Permission to sleep? Consider it granted

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

I don’t know about you, but on those rare occasions when I sleep in on a weekend morning, I often feel guilty about missing a good part of the day rather than happy and relaxed knowing that I got some extra sleep.

Why is that? While some of it is the legitimate realization that I might have missed a part of the morning that I enjoy (leisurely breakfast, reading or watching the news, catching up on sports highlights), the other part is (I think) that part of society that encourages us to push and drive ourselves to constantly succeed.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a mother or father at home looking after kids, or an entrepreneur launching a new business, there’s always an Instagram or blog post that takes “being your best” to a new level. We glorify overachievement and consciously (or subconsciously) vilify sleep as weak and time-wasting.

We need to stop doing that. Research has shown just how significantly “under-sleep” negatively impacts our body and our performance. This article refers to under-sleep as “the new sugar”, and a health time bomb. You can read more about the impact here.

There’s even specific advice out there to deal with those guilty feelings of sleeping in on a Saturday morning. The company behind the meditation app “Headspace” has some great advice on how to shift your thinking about extra sleep from negative to positive:

And finally, there’s that other guilty pleasure that so many try to hide: napping. Other than taking too long a nap and feeling groggy, there really are no negatives to this activity, just a long list of positives. And if you want to learn how some famous men and women (such as Churchill, Da Vinci, Thatcher and Clinton) used napping to their advantage, this list of 15 top nappers will get you thinking.

Thank you for reading!
Ian Hull

23 May

Can you win the lottery and remain anonymous?

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

When it comes to money matters, privacy is a big issue. We see it all the time in the estates area – a great deal of time and planning can go into ensuring that estate details remain confidential.

Of course, the need for privacy can be even more important during your lifetime, especially if your wealth is substantial – or suddenly becomes substantial. You may have read about a recent U.S. lottery winner of $560 million who went to court to argue that she should receive the prize but was entitled to remain anonymous.

Based on New Hampshire law, she was successful. And there are a handful of U.S. states that allow lottery winners to remain anonymous. Unfortunately, if you were ever to win the big one in Canada and claim a major lottery prize, your hopes of having this new wealth fly under the radar are slim indeed, although there have been rare exceptions.

No privacy for lottery winners in Canada

Provincial lottery corporations have rules that require winners to publicly disclose their identity and take part in lottery public relations activities, such as having their photo taken with an oversized cheque. The corporations argue that this is necessary for transparency (showing that someone did indeed win the jackpot) and for promoting future draws.

Many Canadian winners have argued that they should be able to remain anonymous. One B.C. man who recently won $50 million argued that the ownership of the ticket had been transferred to a trust, and that the trust could collect the winnings. The lottery corporation stuck to its guns and held that only an individual or group of individuals could claim a prize. After 21 months of haggling, the winner had the trust transfer the ticket back to himself and he collected his prize, with full publicity.

An Ontario individual, however, was recently successful in convincing the lottery corporation to mute all publicity about their win. The lottery folks would only say that the personal circumstances of the individual were “rare” but would not release details of what those rare circumstances were.

All to say, if you play the lottery in Canada, it’s a safe bet that you’ll be smiling for the camera if you win.

Thank you for reading … Have a great day,
Ian Hull

09 May

Less is more – ditch your junk

Ian Hull Charities, Estate & Trust, Estate Planning, Uncategorized 0 Comments

Ask anyone who has cleared out the home of a loved one who has passed away or moved to a care facility, it can be a tough task.

On top of the emotional burden of sorting through family items, and determining what should be kept or discarded, there is the physical burden of simply dealing with so much stuff. It can overwhelm just about anyone. This article provides some good ideas on how to tackle the project – one that can often take a year or more depending on the circumstances.

But here’s a more important question: have you done anything to lessen the burden for others when your home is eventually cleared out? The sad truth is that most of us are surrounded by stuff that will end up in dumpsters when it’s our turn to move. The article noted above even outlines “skip” or dumpster strategies. Why do we continue to hold on to things that have no day-to-day use or role in our lives and will have no use to others when we die?

Ditch your junk

The answer to that question is simple: other than those who have a hoarding disorder, most of us accumulate and keep stuff simply because it’s easier to let the status quo prevail rather than undertake the work of clearing things out. And if we do clear things out, it’s often related to an event that forces our hand, such as downsizing from a large home to a condo or apartment.

Let me throw out a challenge: if you’re at that post-kids-at-home stage of life, act now to clear out your stuff so that others won’t have to when it’s your time to move on. If your adult children cherish certain items and kick up a fuss about throwing things out, have them take the items to their homes. And take a hard, honest look at what items you and your family will likely never use again – and get rid of these items today.

It doesn’t have to go into dumpsters. Charities will take a wide range of items, including clothes, bedding, toys, games, small appliances, sporting goods, books, electronics, housewares and furniture. For example, both the Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy and Diabetes Canada have home collection programs.

Yes, it takes some work, but there are important benefits to you as well as your family in clearing out your junk. You not only gain peace of mind in knowing you haven’t left the hard lifting to others, you can enjoy your decluttered home for many years to come.

Thank you for reading,
Ian Hull

25 Apr

How are you storing the photos of your life?

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

With the improvement in phone cameras, photographs are a bigger part of our lives than ever, at least in terms of volume. And while digital photos don’t take up any actual space, they can clutter the lives of our loved ones when we leave a mess of hard drives and memory sticks behind, with thousands of photos to sort through.

When we think about arranging our affairs, the author of this blog makes a very compelling argument for including photographs as part of the arrangement process, and organizing family photos so they provide comfort, not nuisance. The article also contains some great advice on how to leave a photo legacy.

Here’s a thought: with photographs now so ubiquitous, it may be possible to actually “do with pictures” what we used to “do with words” in terms of providing a memoir for those we leave behind. The process of reviewing digital photos, scanning older prints, culling and organizing, and then producing a visual timeline of your life, can not only produce a wonderful gift for your family, it can be an important opportunity for reflection for you as well.

While arranging your photo collection may not be top of your priority list during your work life, it might be something you move up the priority ladder when you retire and have the time to devote to the task.

In the meantime, if a parent or older family relative dies and you’re the one sorting through the photos left behind, this article  has some valuable tips on how to make the process both practical and meaningful.

Thank you for reading,
Ian Hull

11 Apr

How a walk in the park can improve your mental health

Ian Hull Health / Medical, In the News, Uncategorized Tags: , , 0 Comments

Anxiety, depression and other mental health issues can occur for any number of reasons, but they often emerge when a loved one has died. While grief is a natural occurrence that’s distinct from depression, it’s not unusual for the grief over the death of a friend or family member to trigger a major depressive episode. And these conditions can worsen if the death results in family conflict, whether over the estate or other family issues.

When dealing with a mental health issue, we typically consider a number of treatments, from therapy, to medication, to increased social supports to help the person recover. These can all play a critical role in improving mental health.

But what can sometimes be overlooked are psychological improvement activities that a person can undertake themselves – ones that can have a measurable mental health benefit. One of the most surprising – and easiest to carry out – is a walk in nature, through a ravine, urban park, or rural area.

Taking a walk? Make it green

Exercise has long been proven to have significant mental health benefits. Many of us know this first hand from that “feel good” sensation after a workout. But there can be hurdles for someone suffering from a condition like depression to initiate even moderately intense exercise. These hurdles can include age, unfamiliarity with exercise routines, or just a lack of energy.

A walk – on the other hand – is something that most people can undertake quite easily. The key from a mental health perspective is to ensure that the walk takes place in a natural setting. A 2015 study compared the brain activity of people who walked 90 minutes through an urban setting to those who walked for the same length of time through a natural setting with trees and vegetation. The nature walkers showed significantly lower activity in the portion of the brain linked to ruminations, which can be a key contributor to depression and anxiety:

This isn’t the first study to show the link between time in nature and better mental health – and the science is strong. The Canadian Mental Health Association – Ontario has even funded park walks for youth with mental health issues, suggesting that nature walks are truly a beneficial activity for all ages.

Thank you for reading,
Ian Hull

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