Category: Estate Planning
You’re likely familiar with the Christian burial phrase “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” While that phrase has been recited over graves for centuries, it may need changing in Washington state. With the green light given to the composting of human remains, “dust to dirt” may be a more appropriate way of putting it.
A new path for human remains
The Washington state law allowing the composting of human remains will take effect in May of 2020. It means that, in addition to cremation or burial, a body can now be composted naturally into soil.
Like all composting, it’s a simple and natural process. The body is covered in a natural material, like straw or wood chips. Over the course of several weeks, the body breaks down into soil. Families are free to visit the complex during this process. When the composting is finished, the soil is given to the family and they can do with it as they please.
Environmental friendly – and cost effective
While composting won’t be an option for everyone, it will certainly appeal to those who want a cost-effective, environmentally-friendly option for disposing of their remains at death.
For instance, there are no air quality concerns that can come with cremation, and composting doesn’t use up valuable tracks of land the way a cemetary can. In fact, the process actually “creates” land by adding more soil to the world.
And cost-wise, the woman who spearheaded the move to allow composting – Katrina Spade, CEO of Recompose – estimates that the approximate cost of composting (US$5,500) will be just below the cost of cremation, and far less than a burial.
Are we ready Canada?
The composting of human remains makes sense on many levels, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see this practice spreading to other jurisdictions, including Canada. It may not be for everyone, but it’s hard to see a downside.
This CNN article and short video provide some more context to the adoption of human remains composting in Washington state.
Thanks for reading … Have a wonderful day,
On May 5, 2019, CBC reported on a story of a lawyer who had his cell phone and laptop seized by the Canada Border Services Agency when he refused to give them his passwords.
According to the report, Nick Wright was returning to Canada after a 4 month trip to Guatemala and Colombia. After his bags were searched, the Canada Border Services officer asked for the passwords to his phone and laptop, so that they could be searched as well. Wright refused, telling the officer that his devices contained confidential solicitor-client information. His devices were then confiscated, to be sent to a government lab which would try to determine the passwords and search the files.
According to Canada Border Services, digital devices are classified as “goods”, and Canada Border Services is allowed to examine the goods, including any electronic files on the device, for customs purposes. If a traveller refuses to reveal their password, Canada Border Services may seize the device. According to the policy manual, although an arrest would “appear to be legally supported, a restrained approach will be adopted until the matter is settled in ongoing court proceedings.”
U.S. customs and border protection officials have similar rights to search devices. Refusal to disclose passwords may result in confiscation or a denial of entry.
Such digital device searches do not occur frequent. In the 17 months between November 2017 and March 2019, 19,515 travellers entering Canada (0.015% of all travellers) had their digital devices examined by Canada Border Services.
The Canadian Bar Association warns about the risks of such searches to lawyers. Lawyers have a duty to keep client communications private. This applies to all information about a client or former client. The duty extends to staff, as well. “Your client has a right to privacy which requires you not to disclose to anyone, with exceptions, when any communications between you relate to legal advice sought or given.”
The Canadian Bar Association says that a breach could result in a loss of client trust, a client lawsuit for negligence, an E&O claim, disciplinary action and public criticism.
The Canadian Bar Association suggests that when crossing a border, lawyers should travel with a “clean device”. They should use cloud technology to store any solicitor-client information. Lawyers should erase all privileged information from their devices, including contact lists with clients’ names, addresses and contact information. The search by border services does not allow them to access information on the cloud. Once across the border, this information can easily be reinstalled from the cloud.
The move to retail automation amazes me – its impact is so unpredictable.
The most recent kerfuffle relates to claims by Shoppers Drug Mart cashiers that they’ve been made to pressure customers into using self-checkout stations rather than traditional cashiers. Cashiers claim (probably correctly) that stores are encouraging self-checkout to reduce the number of cashiers needed in store. You can read about it here.
Where will it lead?
I have no doubt that the use of self-checkout at grocery stores will increase in the future, but will it lead to the near elimination of cashier jobs? That’s hard to say. When ATMs started breeding like rabbits in the 1980s, the loss of bank teller jobs seemed almost a certainty. While there have been some branch closures and job losses, there are still thousands of branches across the country. Go into any one and the human touch is alive and well, even with online banking at our fingertips.
Contrast that with the move to self-serve gas stations. Even though a couple of cities in British Columbia (Coquitlam and Richmond) still ban self-serve gas, more than 90% of automobile gas sold in Canada today is self-serve. Most of us never think twice about it – we just pump our own. A lot of gas attendant jobs have gone by the wayside.
Prediction – a niche only for grocery self-checkout
In London, England, I went to a 24-hour Tesco grocery store recently that had no cashiers on the overnight shift. The store had just one attendant at the front whose job was to help people navigate the self-checkout machines. That’s a use that makes sense. If you want the convenience of shopping overnight, you’ll need to do a bit of work yourself at the end. I can definitely see that trend carrying on in Canada.
But my best guess is that grocery self-checkout will remain a niche offering. Bricks and mortar retailers need to differentiate themselves from their online cousins, and the personal touch is a key way to do that. I think many people will do what I do – use the self-checkout only when the line at regular cashiers looks too long.
And who wants to make that impulsive scratch & win lotto ticket purchase from a machine anyways?
Thanks for reading!
Ian M. Hull
In Daniel Estate (Re), 2019 ONSC 2790 (CanLII), the applicants applied to have their estate trustee and attorneyship accounts passed. As stated by the judge hearing the application, “Unlike many applications to pass accounts, this is a “good news” story.”
The applicants were the friends and former neighbours of a high net worth, elderly couple, Isabel and Wayne. For over 20 years, the applicants provided extensive personal assistance to the elderly couple. “In many ways, [the applicants] acted like loyal and dutiful family members.” In addition to completing simple neighbourly tasks, the applicants helped the couple in many other ways. They eventually became the attorneys for property and personal care for the couple. When Wayne died, the applicants took on the role of acting as his Estate Trustee.
The application to pass accounts was supported by an affidavit from Isabel, who indicated that she was content with the claim for compensation being made by the applicants. The application materials also included an accounting analysis prepared by a Chartered Accountant, who reviewed the accounts in detail, and also an analysis by a Certified Case Manager and Certified Canadian Life Care Planner, who assessed the value of the personal services provided by the applicants.
In the end, the court awarded the applicants compensation for administering Wayne’s estate of $129,775; compensation for acting as attorneys for property of $435,772.36 and compensation for acting as attorneys for personal care, for a total of $757,659.
With respect to costs, the court awarded the applicants their costs of $125,021 for the unopposed passing of accounts. According the judge, “While this amount seems at first blush high, I note the accounting report alone was worth $45,000. In my view of the detailed, thorough and helpful material filed and in view of the hours it took to assemble, digest and present the financial information provided, I find that the fees and disbursements claimed are reasonable.”
The court appears to have been impressed by the extent and quality of the assistance provided by the applicants to Isabel and Wayne. Further, the court appears to have been impressed with the detailed and extensive materials put before the court in order to justify the claims on the passing.
Thanks for reading.
There is a well-known case that students read while in law school that has to do with requirements for making a will in your own handwriting. It involves a will by farmer Cecil Harris who was farming near Rosetown, Saskatchewan when on June 8, 1948 while out working alone in his field, he suffered a misfortune and was pinned under his tractor for ten hours. With his pen knife he scrawled on the tractor’s fender: “In case I die in this mess, I leave all to wife” and added his signature. The Saskatchewan court admitted the tractor fender into probate as a will. It had met the legal requirements of being in his own handwriting and signed by him, and the fender is now on display at the University of Saskatchewan Law School.
Making a will is a serious and often complex endeavour that one should not casually undertake without professional advice. Having said that, the law in many countries recognizes a “holographic” or handwritten will, when properly completed. In Ontario the relevant legislation is in the Succession Law Reform Act, which states, “A testator may make a valid will wholly by his or her own handwriting and signature, without formality, and without the presence, attestation or signature of a witness. R.S.O. 1990, c. S.26, s. 6.”
Forty years ago when I first read the “tractor” case in law school in 1979, the most modern piece of equipment in many law offices was the electric typewriter. Since then, changes include the introduction of the fax machine, the word processor and then the computer, the internet and email, and smart phones. Law students today are of a generation that grew up with smart phones in their hands starting at about the same time they learned to walk.
Perhaps it will soon be time to recognize a “handwritten” electronic holograph will. In Ontario there have been none so far. Nevertheless, it seems to be an interesting question. For example, if I take my ipad and handwrite on the device “All to my wife” and sign it as my holographic will so it is available in electronic form, it will not be recognized as valid in Ontario. However, if I take the same ipad and damage the surface of the screen by scratching on it, “All to my wife” with my signature, then this will be recognized as a valid will. This seems to me to be an incongruous result. In a time when everyone has a smart phone the matter might yet be resolved by new legislation or perhaps even by an activist court and a modern version of the tractor case.
Thanks for reading!
I know a lot of people have lost their unconditional love for Tim Hortons some time ago. The main reason? They used to make their donuts and other baked goods from scratch twice each day at each store. They now ship partially-baked, flash-frozen baked goods to stores from a central warehouse. Stores then “finish” the baking process in microwave/convection ovens. The stuff just doesn’t taste the way it used to.
That is a big issue for many. Other smaller issues include indifferent service at many locations, the ongoing franchisee disputes, and improved options at fast food places like Starbucks, McDonalds and A&W. And it’s not just us – even The Guardian in the U.K. has taken note of the decline of our mighty Timmies.
But “Timmies” still matters
Despite these issues, I still applaud Tim Hortons for remaining a touchstone/meeting place for Canadians. Which is why I was shocked to discover the pre-Christmas closure of a large, seemingly busy Tim Hortons when I visited a friend on the Danforth recently.
Apparently, the closure came with no warning. Just a locked door on December 24, 2018, at the busy corner of Logan and Danforth. This was the place where a large group of retired Greek men (maybe 10 to 15 at a time) met every morning for coffee, where many teachers and parents from the school across the street got their caffeine hit, and where many a toddler met their first Timbit. You can read about it here.
The “scoop” from the jeweller across the street was that the landlord was insolvent and couldn’t keep the place up. So, the franchisee bailed when the lease was up. Maybe true, maybe not. But regardless of the reason, the closure has changed the daily or weekly routines of hundreds of people.
Yes, there is a Second Cup, Timothy’s and Starbucks within walking distance on the Danforth, but none of them has the seating to accommodate large groups or is as close to the school and community centre as the former Tim Hortons. Loyal customers have had to find an alternative, but none will quite be the same.
So, ask yourself: if Tim Hortons is part of your life, where would you go if your favourite location went under? With closures like this one coming out of the blue, it’s never too early to plan your backup. And while you’re at it, maybe give some thought to your existing estate plan. Life is full of unexpected surprises!
Thanks for reading … Enjoy your day,
On October 3, 1942 the Calgary Herald reported that the shortest will was four words, “Jake everything is yours”, handwritten on a piece of paper by his cousin Reinhard Z. Nice and recorded at Norristown Pennsylvania by Registrar of Wills, John H. Hoffman. The estate was valued at $16,000 (which would have bought a house in those days).
On November 29, 1965 the Windsor Star reported that the shortest will in England was from a case in 1906 where the will admitted to probate was the three words: “All for mother”. It involved the case of Thorn versus Dickens which was a dispute between the deceased’s mother and the deceased’s widow.
On July 9, 1979 the Vancouver Sun reported that – According to Guinness – the shortest will in the world was the two words: “Vse Zene” the Czech for “All to wife” dated January 19, 1967 by Herr Karl Tausch of Langen, Hesse, Germany.
Thanks for reading!
The Guardian newspaper of London England reported on November 9, 1925 that the last will and testament of Frederica Evelyn Stilwell Cook, who died January 9, 1925, age 68, is thought to be the longest will ever filed for probate. The will was 1066 pages. It was 95,940 words long. It was entered into probate at Somerset House, the then home of the Principal Probate Registry in London, on November 2, 1925. Probate of the will was granted to Cook’s brother and to her son, both of them Londoners. Practically all of her bequests were to her children. The will soon became a topic of international interest.
The Windsor Star newspaper reported on the matter on December 11, 1925 and added that, “Most of the will is in the testatrix’s own handwriting. Four large books, heavily bound, were needed for the voluminous treatment”.
The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix newspaper reported further details on March 18, 1926 that the will was dated October 17, 1919 and that there was a codicil dated March 2, 1924. The deceased had provided a priced inventory of “laces, jewellery, furs, and objects of art” and disposed of property valued at approximately $102,915; a large fortune in those days. She also provided specific instructions that her executors were directed to, “burn her diaries, to bury her wedding ring with her, and to see that her age was not inscribed on her tombstone”.
This blog has only 218 words. Thanks for reading!
What a weekend we have coming up! So many things to celebrate! Consider participating in some of the following revelries:
- Cinco de Mayo:
This celebration is held on, you guessed it, the 5th of May. The date is to commemorate the Mexican Army’s victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Mexico’s smaller force defeated the larger French force, serving as a significant morale booster. Unfortunately for Mexico, the French forces were victorious a year later, when the French won the Second Battle of Puebla, and took control of Mexico City.
Cinco de Mayo is not to be confused with Mexico’s Independence Day, which is celebrated on September 16.
- Cinco de Cuatro
This celebration on May 4th was created by the Bluth family on “Arrested Development” in retaliation to Cinco de Mayo. The Bluths, and in particular, Lucille Bluth, were upset that their Hispanic staff were not showing up for work on May 5th. They therefore created a holiday for the evening before Cinco de Mayo, designed to use up all of the party supplies and food the night before.
- Star Wars Day
May the fourth. Get it?
- Beer Pong Day
Beer Pong Day is observed on the first Saturday of May. Apparently, this day was first organized in 2006 at the University of Arizona. (However, there is conflicting information about the date. Another site states that Beer Pong Day is July 6, while yet another site (albeit Australian) says that January 5 is Beer Pong Day AND Bikini Day.)
Other May the 5th holidays include:
- Cartoonist Day
- International Bereaved Mother’s Day
- Childhood Stroke Awareness Day
- International Midwives Day
- International Permaculture Day
- Lemonade Day
- Motorcycle Mass and Blessing of the Bikes Day
- Mayday for Mutts
- Museum Lover’s Day
- Oyster Day
- National Infertility Survival Day
- National Silence the Shame Day
- National Hoagie Day
- Revenge of the Fifth (A sequel to May the Fourth)
It is also my birthday.
Lots of reasons to celebrate. Have a great weekend! Salud!
It started innocently enough. I was in a supermarket with my son on the weekend, and he picked up a Jiffy pop container and handed it to me. You likely know the product – a round tinfoil container with oil and kernels that expands when heated over a stove to produce popcorn.
I didn’t even know they still made it – it was something more common in the 60s and 70s before microwave popcorn took off. I laughed and we stuck it in the grocery cart for fun and went home.
Later that afternoon, my son turned on the stove and started making the popcorn. I told him that I could still chant the Jiffy pop jingle. And out of my mouth it came:
Jiffy pop, Jiffy pop the magic treat – as much fun to make as it is to eat.
Where did that come from? I hadn’t thought about Jiffy pop in 30 years. Why did I still remember a jingle from my childhood? Were 30-second Jiffy pop commercials like this one that powerful?
Advertising can work – for many years
Apparently so. And it got me thinking: what other products were etched into my mind in childhood, and could potentially still be playing a role in my purchasing decisions today?
Research has shown that there can be a connection. Studies published in the Journal of Consumer Research looked at adult judgments of the healthiness of products, some of which were heavily advertised during the person’s childhood. The study found that when children under age 13 were exposed to advertising using characters, they develop positive long-term feelings towards the characters and the brands’ nutrition for years to come. You can read a short summary of the studies here.
While this study focussed on “characters” in advertising (think Tony the Tiger, Ronald McDonald, the Kool-aid animated jug), I wonder if other associations from childhood also work, like jingles? I can still rhyme off the ingredients in a Big Mac, and say the words to Coke’s “I’d like to teach the world to sing” song. Is that why a Big Mac and a Coke still represent comfort food to me today (even if I don’t indulge)?
Re-examine product decision
Buying habits – and fond associations – can keep us locked into many things whose benefits may be long past their best-before dates. So, it’s never a bad thing to reconsider what you buy and why you buy it. You may never kick that Cap’n Crunch habit, or the lose the magic of Jiffy pop, but at least you’ll be self-aware when you make your next purchase.
Thanks for reading!
Ian M. Hull