Category: Estate & Trust
The Henson Trust, and planning for individuals receiving ODSP, has been thoroughly discussed on this Blog in the past, but today we look at the potential necessity for multiple Henson Trusts.
In July of 2019, Stuart Clark discussed the concept of a Henson Trust and the risk to provincial entitlements if “a testator does not take steps prior to their death to ensure that their estate plan includes tools such as a Henson Trust that would allow the beneficiary to receive the inheritance as well as continue to receive their benefits from ODSP.”
A 2019 decision by the BC Court of Appeal upheld a lower court’s finding that a distribution of estate assets to a trust that was settled by the Deceased during his lifetime was inoperable. Such a distribution is known as a pour-over clause as the assets are said to “pour over” into the separate trust.
In Ontario, the fundamental issue with the use of pour-over clauses is that by allowing a distribution from a Will to a separate trust (that can be easily altered after the Will is executed), it may not conform to the strict formal requirements otherwise required for a Will to be altered. The formalities required to alter or amend a trust are much lower than those required to create a Will.
Which brings us to today’s topic: Families may need multiple Henson Trusts.
A family-owned business, for example, may yield assets for both uncles and aunts, as well as for the parent of an individual who receives provincial assistance. Because of the issues with pour-over clauses, it becomes extremely difficult for a gift to vest in a beneficiary and then be subsumed by a current or future Henson Trust. As a result, an outright gift to a nephew may jeopardize his provincial entitlements despite the existence of a separate Henson Trust.
Further, while a Will can be changed or altered at anytime prior to death, it is never a good idea to rely on other people to provide for a particular family member. However, because multiple Henson Trusts can feel cumbersome, discussing plans with family members is always a good idea when appointing the same trustee is a possibility.
Depending on the family and circumstances, talking with family members about estate plans can be challenging, but sharing ideas about Henson Trusts can potentially ensure that no one loses access to ODSP.
Thanks for reading.
Ian Hull and Daniel Enright
I blogged about Estate Information Returns on April 29, 2019 and what they mean for a recently appointed Estate Trustee.
There have since been a few changes to the obligations of an Estate Trustee in connection with an Estate Information Return.
Whereas the Estate Information Return had to be filed with the Ministry of Finance within 90 calendar days after a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee (with or without) a Will was issued, that requirement is changed to 180 days since January 1, 2020.
Another important change is that whereas before January 1, 2020, an Estate Trustee had to file an Amended Estate Information Return within 30 calendar days of becoming aware of any information submitted that was inaccurate or incomplete, that period was increased to 60 days.
Since January 1, 2020, there is also no Estate Administration Tax payable on the first $50,000.00 of the Estate assets. The Estate Administration Tax is paid on the basis of $15.00 for every thousand dollars of the remainder of the Estate assets (i.e. above and beyond $50,000.00).
These changes are important because they allow an Estate Trustee more time to investigate the nature of the Estate assets and provide as accurate information to the Ministry of Finance, as possible.
A helpful guide from the Ontario government in respect of Estate Information Returns and the issues surrounding them can be downloaded here.
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Life insurance can be an important part of an estate plan, be it taken out to fund payment of anticipated tax liabilities triggered by death, to assist in supporting surviving family members, or to equalize the distribution of an estate within the context of the gift of an asset of significant value (such as a family business) to one child to the exclusion of another, who can be designated as beneficiary of the policy.
In a time when many Canadians are facing their mortality and taking the pause from normal life as an opportunity to review and update estate plans, many Canadians are turning their minds to other aspects of estate planning, including supplementing an estate plan with life insurance. A recent Financial Post article suggests that life insurance applications have doubled during the pandemic, as more Canadians take steps to plan for the unexpected during this period of uncertainty.
At the same time, premiums for new permanent life insurance policies have increased by as much as 27%. While term life insurance policies may remain a more affordable option, they too are anticipated to become more expensive, with upcoming premium increases of up to 20%. The increase in premiums has been linked to lowering interest rates and restrictions to the investment options available to insurance companies.
Other changes to life insurance during the pandemic include the exclusion of the standard medical examination required in order to obtain some types of coverage. The maximum coverage offered by many providers without a medical exam has increased to reflect limitations to the ability for applicants to safely attend an in-person examinations. For other providers and types of plans, medical examinations are simply on hold.
Lastly, insurance companies have updated intake questionnaires to include COVID-screening questions. If an applicant is experiencing potential symptoms, they may be required to wait two weeks before taking out the policy, but are not typically ineligible from coverage altogether. Some insurers, however, are no longer offering new coverage to seniors or others who are at a higher risk of complications during the period of the pandemic.
One life insurance provider has already doubled its projected COVID-19-related payouts during 2020 from the figures it had released earlier this year. While there may have been changes to certain eligibility requirements and the cost of life insurance, it remains a suitable estate planning tool for many Canadians.
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Many parts of the world remain under some degree of lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For older adults who may have limited access to assistance or company outside of immediate family during the pandemic, and/or whose transition to long-term care may have been delayed as a result, temporary relocation to live with supportive family members may be a suitable option.
As our readers know, inheritance tax is payable in respect of the assets of estates located in a number of jurisdictions, which do not include Canada. In the United Kingdom, for example, an inheritance tax of 40% is charged on the portion of an estate exceeding a tax-free threshold of 325 thousand pounds (subject to certain exceptions).
One way that some families choose to limit inheritance tax is to gift certain assets, in some cases a family house, prior to death, such that its value will not trigger the payment of inheritance tax. In the UK, if an asset is validly gifted at least seven years before death, inheritance tax will not be payable on the asset. However, where the donor of the gift reserves the benefit of the property – for example, if he or she continues to live at real property gifted to another family member – the gift will not be valid for the purposes of inheritance tax calculations.
A recent news article highlights the risk that older individuals in the UK who move back into previously gifted property during the pandemic may lose the benefit of potential inheritance tax exclusions by falling under the “gift with reservation of benefit” exception as a result of benefitting from continued occupation of the gifted property. While this risk may not outweigh the benefits of obtaining family support, it is a factor that a family may wish to consider as part of a decision to alter living arrangements.
Approximately 600 gifts have failed in the past several years, triggering up to 300 million pounds in inheritance tax in the UK. It is certainly possible that these figures will continue to increase as a result of shared family accommodations during the pandemic.
Thank you for reading and stay safe,
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When a claim is being brought by or against an estate or a trust, who are the proper parties?
Rule 9.01 of the Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a proceeding may be brought by or against an executor, administrator or trustee as representing an estate or trust and its beneficiaries without joining the beneficiaries as parties.
There are exceptions to this Rule. Beneficiaries must be included as parties where the claim is:
- to establish or contest the validity of a will
- for the interpretation of a will;
- the removal or replacement of an executor, administrator or trustee;
- against an executor, administrator or trustee for fraud or misconduct; or
- for the administration of an estate or the execution of a trust by the court (ie, under Rule 65).
Where beneficiaries must be named as parties, the failure to do so may be “fatal” to the proceeding. In Blum v. The Queen, 1998 CanLii 425 (TCC), the applicant challenged the validity of a trust. The beneficiaries were not named. Applying similar rules under Alberta’s Queen’s Bench Rules, the court stated “The failure to do so [to name the beneficiaries] is fatal to the wife’s attach on the trust.” It should be noted that under the Alberta rules, beneficiaries to a trust must be named as parties to a proceeding to establish or contest the validity of “a will or trust”. Ontario Rules do not require that the beneficiaries of a trust be named as parties (as opposed to beneficiaries under a Will). However, applying the logic in Blum, it may be advisable to do so. In Blum, the court stated that it would be reluctant to rule on the validity of a trust without the beneficiaries being represented in the proceeding.
Thus, the executor, administrator or trustee is a necessary party to a proceeding by or against an estate or trust. Under Rule 9.01(3), if any executor, administrator or trustee does not consent to be joined as a plaintiff or applicant, they are to be made a defendant or respondent.
The beneficiaries, however, except in the limited exceptions noted, are not necessary parties. However, while certain proceedings may be brought without naming the beneficiaries as parties, there is nothing that prevents them from being named. In Milner Investors Inc. v. Eisen, 2019 ONSC 5911 (CanLII), the court held that while they do not need to be named as parties, “There is nothing that precludes the pleading from naming the beneficiaries as plaintiffs.”
Thanks for reading. Enjoy your weekend.
The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) recently provided an update regarding its processing of clearance certificate requests.
Due to COVID-19, clearance certificates may be taking longer to process because employees have limited access to CRA offices and are receiving minimal submissions by mail or fax. Any new clearance certificate applications submitted after March 12, 2020 may not form part of the inventory being processed. As such, CRA is encouraging legal representatives who submitted a clearance request after March 12, 2020 to resubmit the request and supporting documents electronically, either through My Account, Represent a Client or My Business Account.
If the applicant cannot use one of these portals, in order to help stop the spread of COVID-19, CRA has created a temporary procedure allowing taxpayers and their representatives to submit clearance certificate requests and supporting information by e-mail. To do so, we can contact the CRA at CCTX19G@cra-arc.gc.ca, and the province where the executor lives should be named in the subject line. CRA has a sample e-mail accessible in the link at the top of this blog, and CRA warns that sensitive information or attachments should not be included in the e-mail request. We can expect a CRA officer to reply by e-mail with requirements to authorize e-mail communication and to advise when/if we are permitted to submit the clearance certificate application by e-mail.
This e-mail option is helpful to applicants, as it may avoid delay in attending to an estate’s tax matters. However, it is a route to consider carefully, as there is greater risk in proceeding by e-mail than through portal access.
Thanks for reading and have a great day,
Natalia R. Angelini
In Ontario the courts have been rapidly adapting their practice and procedures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Beginning on July 6, 2020, the Superior and Ontario Court of Justice will now be further expanding its operations. The date is dependent on approval from the Chief Medical Officer of Ontario.
The Ministry of the Attorney General (“MAG“) has established an incremental plan to prepare courthouses to facilitate the return of full court operations in Ontario. MAG has announced that Phase One will be implemented on July 6, 2020 in a limited number of courthouses and courtrooms. Court operations will continue to expand with a targeted completion date of November 1, 2020.
I will briefly highlight some of the takeaways from MAG’s strategy for re-opening:
- Reopening of 74 courthouses and 149 courtrooms across Ontario;
- Workplace safety considerations are being implemented throughout courthouse and courtrooms including the installation of plexiglass barriers, hand sanitizer stations, and distance markers. There will also be increased screening procedures for those entering any courthouse and caps on the number of occupants in each room;
- Each courthouse will have risk assessment conducted so that the proper preventative measures can be put into place;
- Virtual hearings will continue as we gradually phase back to in-person appearances.
MAG has yet to clarify on the types of in-person court appearances that will be heard during Phase One. Since the declaration of the emergency, the Superior Court of Justice has heard many “urgent” matters, being motions, case conferences, and pre-trials. It is hoped that the types of matters that are to be heard will be expanded as a part of Phase One.
In the meantime, counsel should continue to utilize and embrace the new technologies offered by the Courts to schedule virtual hearings and integrate them into their regular practice. Rather than waiting for a complete re-opening of the Courts, lawyers should be prepared to “attend” virtual hearings in order to best serve clients and provide them with access to justice.
Thank you for reading and stay tuned!
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way the legal profession works at least on a temporary basis. In Ontario, lawyers are required to embrace technology to facilitate dispute resolution and to move files along. Mediations, discoveries, and Court hearings are being conducted virtually via videoconference. Today I will consider some of the benefits of remote mediation and then tips on how to master it.
- Cost – cost will inevitably be lower as it will be organized on an online platform.
- Convenience – The mediation can be arranged on short notice, as all parties can participate from their location of choice. Travel and the associated costs are no longer an issue. Participation of parties that might not have otherwise be available to participate in mediation may now be accessible.
Tips for Successful Remote Mediation:
- Ensure your client is set up with the proper technology: a computer equipped with webcam, microphone, and speakers. Lawyers cannot assume that every client has access to a computer and quick internet connection.
- Consider using a 3rd party provider such as Neesons Court Reporting & Mediation, to host the mediation. This provider can facilitate the movement of parties in and out of plenary and breakout rooms, summon the mediator, arrange a counsel-to-counsel meeting, and assist with technical issues. This will ultimately save the parties time and expense.
- Ensure your clients are aware of privacy and confidentiality within meeting rooms. Client comfort is essential for a successful mediation.
- A lack of personal interaction means that your client may not be able to warm up to a mediator, which often times is necessary for a successful mediation. An effective mediator will structure a meditation in a way to facilitate adequate confidential one-on-one communication with the parties to assist with resolving the limitations of working with a
mediator through a video link rather than in person.
- Take lots of breaks as attending virtual mediation is more tiring than in person.
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Trustees may be cautious or uncertain when administering trusts, even when the trust deed gives them unfettered discretion in carrying out their duties.
In Ontario, trustees are able to seek advice and directions from the court under section 60 of the Trustee Act and also seek advance approval of various exercises of discretion in administering a discretionary trust. The jurisdiction of the Court to approve the exercise of discretion by trustees was formally recognized in Public Trustee v. Cooper  WTLR 901, a decision of the High Court of Justice in the UK. These orders are often referred to as “Cooper orders”. However, trustees must consider when it is appropriate to involve the Court in decisions that should be made by trustees.
Justice Hart in Cooper outlines instances in which trustees can seek directions from the Court. He states that parties may seek to obtain the blessing of the Court for a “momentous decision” that they have resolved to make in the trust’s life. As long as the proposed course of action is within the proper exercise of the trustees’ powers and where there is no real doubt as to the nature of the trustees’ power, the Court may make a declaration that the trustee’s proposed exercise of power is lawful. The Courts have made it clear that they will not exercise discretionary powers on behalf trustees.
Cooper Orders have been successfully sought in Canada. In Toigo Estate (Re) 2018 BCSC 936, the Trustees of an Estate sought the Court’s declaration that their exercise of discretion was lawful. The deceased created a spousal trust which permitted the trustees uncontrolled discretion to encroach on the capital of the estate in favour of his wife. After his wife’s death, the residue of the estate was to be divided amongst the deceased’s children and grandchildren.
The wife asked the trustees for a significant encroachment. The trustees had uncontrollable discretion to make the encroachment. However, they still wanted the Court’s “opinion, advice or direction” as to whether they should proceed.
The Court held that because of the magnitude of the encroachment, the Court could provide advice on this “momentous decision”. In making the decision, the court asked the following questions:
- Does the trustee have the power under the trust instrument and the relevant law to make the “momentous decision”?
- Has the trustee formed the opinion to do so in good faith and is it desirable and proper to do so?
- Is the opinion formed by the trustee one that a reasonable trustee in its position, properly instructed, could have arrived at?
- Is the Court certain that the decision by any actual or potential conflicts of interest?
Ultimately, trustees need to consider whether it’s suitable in their circumstances to apply to the court for a stamp of approval when taking drastic or “momentous” action.
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The last will and testament of the gunman responsible for Nova Scotia’s mass shooting in April 2020 was recently made public. The gunman’s will names his common law spouse as the executor of his estate, estimated to be worth around $1.2 million. However, the gunman’s spouse has renounced her right to be executor of his estate and it is now being administered by the Public Trustee. It was also rumoured that the spouse had renounced any interest she may have had in the gunman’s sizable estate.
Whether the gunman’s partner did in fact relinquish any inheritance remains to be confirmed. However, there are a multitude of reasons why someone may choose to waive their right to an inheritance, including:
- Emotional grounds;
- Personal moral or ethical grounds;
- To avoid taking possession of an undesirable or costly asset, such as real property that requires significant repairs or maintenance;
- To avoid subjecting assets to potential creditors if the beneficiary is on the brink of bankruptcy or involved in a lawsuit; or
- To allow the asset to pass to a secondary beneficiary.
For an overview of what is required to properly disclaim an inheritance, you can read Ian Hull’s blog here.
As shown by the above list, even where a beneficiary does not plan to benefit personally from an inheritance they may still be interested in what happens to that inheritance. In such situations, the beneficiary may want to think carefully about whether disclaiming their inheritance is the best option.
It is important to note that a person can only disclaim a gift if they have not yet benefited from the assets and, once disclaimed, that person has no control over the assets. In other words, a beneficiary who renounces a gift should not have anything to do with those assets either before or after they have been disclaimed. This also means that the beneficiary should not have any say in who receives the inheritance.
If a person wants to disclaim their inheritance in order for it to pass to a secondary beneficiary, they should confirm whether the deceased’s will or intestacy laws, as applicable, provide for that outcome. If it does not, or if the person wishes to direct their inheritance to some other individual or charity, there is another option: they can accept the inheritance and give some or all of the assets to whomever they choose. Depending on the beneficiary’s particular goals and circumstances, accepting an inheritance and distributing the assets as they see fit may be preferable to disclaiming the assets.
Thanks for reading!