Category: General Interest

20 Apr

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault: The Ultimate Insurance Policy

Hull & Hull LLP General Interest, In the News Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault (SGSV), also known as the Doomsday Vault, is a secure seedbank located on a Norwegian island far within the Arctic Circle. The purpose of the SGSV is ‘to provide insurance against both incremental and catastrophic loss of crop diversity held in traditional seed banks around the world.’

The safety of the world’s 1,400 crop diversity collections has been a concern for many years due to risks including poor agricultural management, equipment failures, war, underfunding and natural disasters. The SGSV provides a duplication of seed samples stored in genebanks worldwide, acting as a sort of agricultural ‘spare tire’, if you will.

The SGSV was entirely funded and built by the Norwegian government and took its first delivery of seeds just over a year ago. The vault is situated 390 feet inside ‘Platåberget’, a sandstone mountain on Spitsbergen Island chosen based on its tectonic inactivity. Inside the vault, the seeds are sealed in specially designed four-ply foil packages, which are then placed inside sealed boxes and stored on shelves inside storage rooms. Refrigeration units (powered by locally mined coal) cool the seeds to –18 degrees Celsius, and in the event of equipment failure, it would take weeks for the temperature to even reach that of the surrounding sandstone. The area’s natural permafrost would further prevent the samples from thawing. Even in worst-case climate change modeling, the vault rooms will remain naturally frozen for up to 200 years. Estimates suggest that the SGSV has the ability to conserve a capacity of over 2 billion seeds for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

Now, how’s that for global estate planning?

Jennifer Hartman, guest blogger

06 Apr

The Third Man Factor

Hull & Hull LLP Estate & Trust, General Interest, In the News Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
– T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land, 1922

I just finished reading a fascinating book authored by John Geiger called The Third Man Factor: The Secret to Survival in Extreme Environments. When faced with edge-of-death circumstances, numerous people throughout history have encountered what is commonly referred to as ‘the Third Man’. Confronted by life at its extremes, these people have had the sense that they were suddenly joined by a friendly, trusted presence – a guardian, if you will, who “led them out of the impossible”. The Third Man Factor details many of these remarkable experiences, highlights the common threads of extreme physical and mental distress, monotony and isolation, and explores the domains of physiology, sociology, religion, neurology and psychology to flesh out the meaning of the appearance of the Third Man.

In 1895, while attempting to complete the first solo circumnavigation of the world, Joshua Slocum’s sloop-rigged fishing boat Spray was caught in a violent storm. Slocum became convinced of another on board who steered the boat through the gale while Slocum huddled in the boat’s cabin, sick with food poisoning, but unworried. Slocum had experienced the Third Man phenomenon, someone to whom he referred as his ‘invisible helmsman’. An account of Slocum’s surreal encounter was published in the Boston Globe on October 14, 1895, under the headline “Spook on Spray”.

Other Third Man experiences include:

· Reinhold Messner, legendary Italian mountaineer and the first man to summit Everest solo and without supplementary oxygen. In 1970, after having summited Pakistan’s 8,126 metre Nanga Parbat with his younger brother Günther, the two became separated on the precarious descent, and Messner soon came to the horrific realization that Günther had been swept down in an avalanche. It was then that Messner encountered a lone phantom climber calling out to him, comforting him and eventually guiding him down the mountain to safety.
· Ernest Shackleton, British explorer, and head of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914-1916. After his ship Endurance became trapped in ice and was destroyed, Shackleton (pictured below) set off on a perilous 36-hour trek across the mountains and glaciers of South Georgia in an attempt to seek rescue. In his book, South: The Endurance Expedition, Shackleton wrote that “…it seemed to me often that we were four, not three.” He referred to this fourth man as a ‘Divine Companion’. It was Shackleton’s experience that actually inspired T.S. Eliot in The Waste Land.


· Charles Lindbergh, early aviator. In 1927, during the first solo, non-stop trans-Atlantic flight from New York to Paris, Lindbergh encountered ‘vague outlined forms, disembodied beings’ aboard the Spirit of St. Louis while desperately trying to stave off profound exhaustion. These forms not only reassured Lindbergh, but discussed navigational problems and advised him on his flight.

Hallucination? Divine intervention? Sensory illusion? Visit www.thirdmanfactor.com to join a forum for a more in-depth discussion of this phenomenon.

Jennifer Hartman, guest blogger
 

23 Mar

Advance Directives: Do Not Resuscitate Orders

Hull & Hull LLP Estate & Trust, General Interest, In the News Tags: , , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

One form of Advance Directive is the Do Not Resuscitate Order, commonly referred to as a DNR Order, or simply a DNR. It is a written order, signed by a medical professional, indicating one’s desire that lifesaving measures not be initiated if one were to stop breathing or if one’s heart has stopped. A DNR Order is generally only put in place when a person is suffering from a serious, often terminal condition, and when ‘CPR will almost certainly not benefit the patient and is not part of the plan of treatment’.

Up until February 2008, an odd, but not insignificant loophole existed that prevented paramedics and firefighters from honouring any existing DNR while a person was being provided with emergency assistance on the scene, or while in transport to a medical facility. The Ambulance Act’s Basic Life Support Patient Care Standards, Version 2 meant that paramedics were legally obliged to initiate life support measures, including, but not limited to, chest compressions, artificial ventilation, and intubation. Perhaps 911 had been called in order for the person to be transported to a hospital to be rehydrated, or to be treated for an infection. Prior to February 2008, if something catastrophic were to thereafter unfold en route, emergency resuscitation measures would have been initiated, possibly with unimaginable consequences, even if a DNR order was provided to the paramedics or firefighters on-site.

In order to address this disconnect between personal wishes, best intentions and legal constraints, a DNR Task Force was struck in 2003. As a result, there is a new Do Not Resuscitate Confirmation Form that became the new standard in Ontario as of February 1, 2008. Once completed by a physician or nurse, the form authorizes paramedics and firefighters to withhold life support measures, as well as to provide palliative comfort care measures such as suctioning, oxygen, pain control (including morphine) and tranquilizers. This form can be viewed online here.

Jennifer Hartman, guest blogger

 

16 Mar

Meet the Newest Frontier in Debt Collecting: The Dead

Hull & Hull LLP Estate & Trust, General Interest Tags: , 0 Comments

When someone dies, they generally don’t get to take their debts to the grave.  Outstanding debts, such as bills and loans, remain just that…outstanding.  And just because the debtor is now gone, does not mean the creditors are going to be forgiving. 

Sometimes, the repayment of debts happens quickly and easily:  the debts are easy to identify; the deceased’s assets are sufficient to pay them; and there is someone with the authority to access the funds necessary to make the payments (i.e. an executor). 

However, when repayment doesn’t happen, creditors often come to collect.  A recent article in the New York Times, You’re Dead?  That Won’t Stop the Debt Collector, looks at what the paper refers to as “the newest frontier of debt collecting” – finding some way of collecting debts from the dead.  While this might mean going after a deceased’s assets, it also includes contacting next of kin and asking whether they’d mind paying up on the deceased’s behalf.  

Something I found interesting about the article was the degree to which next of kin believed that they were obligated to pay the deceased’s debts and the fact the collection agents weren’t too quick to dissuade them from that belief.

Generally speaking, next of kin do not become personally liable for debts on the death of a relative; the deceased (through his/her assets) is solely liable for those debts and in situations where the assets remaining are insufficient to pay the debts, the estate will be insolvent – family members will not be called on to “kick in” to pay outstanding liabilities.    

However, something to remember is that a deceased person’s debts are, along with funeral and testamentary expenses, a first charge on his/her assets; the debts must be paid before the beneficiaries get paid, so to speak.  So, if beneficiaries have received their share and the creditors have not, the creditors might be able to go after the assets that have been inherited.

Have a great day!

Megan F. Connolly   

01 Oct

Right to Choose Your Final Resting Place

Hull & Hull LLP Executors and Trustees, Funerals, General Interest Tags: , , , , , , 0 Comments

A recent Toronto Life magazine article, “The New Death Etiquette” examines mourning in the 21st century. The new death etiquette includes multicultural hybrid funerals and intricate grieving rituals. Many funerals now are elaborate functions designed to reflect the individual personality of the deceased person. As stated in the article, there is no such thing as a standard burial these days. 

Most of us probably do not like to think about our funeral and final resting place. However, when it comes time to preparing a Will, many individuals will ask their lawyer to include burial instructions, such as a wish for cremation or to be buried in a particular cemetery. It may come as a surprise to learn that in Ontario, such instructions are not binding on the estate trustee. It is the estate trustee who has the right and obligation to bury a deceased person, even in the face of objections from family members. The authority for this comes from an English case decided over 100 years ago, Williams v. Williams (1882), 20 Ch. D. 659, where it was held that there is no property in a dead body, and so a person cannot by will dispose of their own dead body. An estate trustee, however, has the right to custody and possession of a deceased’s body until it is properly buried. 

Have a great day!

Bianca La Neve

25 Sep

Payment of Legal Fees

Hull & Hull LLP General Interest, Litigation Tags: , , , , , 0 Comments

Collection of legal fees can be an ongoing issue for lawyers. It is certainly an issue for a Chicago lawyer, who faces a 15 month suspension arising out of matters relating to the payment of his fees.

According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, the lawyer provided legal services to a client and members of her family on various matters. The lawyer and the client agreed that the client, an exotic dancer at the time, would perform nude dances for him in his office as a way to cut down on legal fees. The lawyer also received free nude dances at the club where she worked. 

The lawyer credited the client with $534 as against his accounts. 

The client later complained of sexual assault. A grand jury declined to indict the lawyer, but the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, a branch of the state Supreme Court, conducted an investigation leading to the suspension.

Thanks for reading.

Paul Trudelle

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