Category: General Interest
Ever wonder if (or wish that) you might be the lucky beneficiary of a hefty life insurance policy left to you by some benevolent benefactor? Well now you can find out if your wishes have come true.
A life insurance policy locator service created and maintained by MIB Solutions Inc. allows you to search 170 million records to see who may have named you (or your client) as a beneficiary. The database includes policies collected from virtually every North American carrier involved in life insurance. The hit rate is 30%. An executor, administrator, a surviving spouse or other relative eligible for appointment may be entitled to order the report. Policy Locator can make it easy to discover life insurance benefits you may not have realized existed.
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- Download the search request form and fill in the required information.
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Your Policy Locator search report and the "Policy Locator Research Primer" will be mailed to you shortly thereafter.
MIB Solutions, Inc.
50 Braintree Hill Park
Braintree, MA 02184-8734
The Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General Website posts answers to frequently asked questions about estates matters like how to find a copy of a deceased person’s will and how to calculate the amount of estate administration tax.
There is a public database on site at the Toronto Estates Office at 330 University Avenue that contains information on wills deposited with the court for safekeeping or provided through an application for a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee with a Will.
Wills deposited with all Ontario Courts from 1996 forward can be searched through the Toronto office. Wills deposited in Toronto can be searched back 40 years. You must contact the individual court offices in other jurisdictions for wills pre-dating 1996.
You can search the name of the deceased and the date of death in order to obtain the file number and review the original will. Searching is free. If the file is located there is a $10.00 fee to retrieve it, $61 if it is in storage, and $1.00 per page for photocopies of the will.
As for estate administration tax, the formula for calculation is set out in s. 2(6) of the Estate Administration Tax Act, as follows:
· $5 for each $1,000, or part thereof, of the first $50,000 of the value of the estate, and
· $15 for each $1,000, or part thereof, of the value of the estate exceeding $50,000.
Or, perhaps you might want to consider a Joint Last to Die Insurance Policy, insurance designed for couples with the specific purpose of providing sufficient funds to pay taxes that will be owed by the estate; the policy pays out the total death benefit upon the death of the surviving spouse. Click here for Sun Life Financial’s version.
Death & taxes: You might not be able to avoid the former but, with a little planning, you can insure against the latter.
Thanks for reading.
Our first house together was a rental duplex in High Park. We knew something was awry when we collected the mail from the common mailbox one afternoon and saw that first letter. It was from the Attorney General’s office and was addressed to the neighbour who lived upstairs. Over time, the letters increased in frequency; the envelopes became increasingly colourful and the font size of the word ‘URGENT’ also ballooned to quite incredible proportions. That was 15 years ago, and we periodically wonder if he’s still on the lam from the law. So when I recently saw a link on the Toronto Star website to an article entitled, “Next Door to Trouble: Neighbours as Nightmares”, I was tickled by the prospects of reading about the camaraderie of the shared experience of the nightmare neighbour.
The article waded through the usual neighbourhood conflicts of noise (parties, pets), garbage, and other common by-law violations such as too-tall fences, too-long grass and too-overhanging trees. But the meat of the article, and by far the most entertaining portion, referred to a number of websites designed to help one navigate the muddy waters of personal relationships, whether they be at home, in the community, or at work. Ahhhh – now we’re cooking with gas.
First up is civilityexperts.com, a Winnipeg-based website offering seminars and tips ‘aimed at fostering respect and communication’. Some 10 percent of the emails it receives are related to bad behaviour in the ‘hood, citing the example of the family who returned from vacation only to find the neighbours in their pool. The Americans have rottenneighbour.com while the Brits have Neighbours from Hell. These websites serve as ‘early warning systems’ for those in the market for a new home. Clever. New, from the creator of civilityexperts.com is youresorude.com, a website that charges a very affordable $2 to send a nasty anonymous email to your neighbour on your behalf.
We’ve moved around a lot since High Park and now count ourselves blessed that our worst complaint about our neighbour is that he has the best damn lawn on the block.
Jennifer Hartman, Guest Blogger
"I regard large inherited wealth as a misfortune, which merely serves to dull men’s faculties. A man who possesses great wealth should, therefore, allow only a small portion to descend to his relatives. Even if he has children, I consider it a mistake to hand over to them considerable sums of money beyond what is necessary for their education. To do so merely encourages laziness and impedes the healthy development of the individual’s capacity to make an independent position for himself." – excerpt from the last will of Alfred Nobel, 1833-1896
Born in Stockholm on October 21, 1833, Alfred Nobel was the third son of Immanuel Nobel, an engineer and inventor, and Andriette Ahlsell. After being sent abroad for study, Alfred became best known for mixing siliceous earth with nitroglycerine, forming it into a rod, and coining it ‘dynamite’. In addition to his obvious attraction to science, innovation and industrialism, Nobel was also drawn to social issues, as touched upon in a previous Hull and Hull LLP blog .
On November 27, 1895, Nobel signed his third and last will in Paris. It was handwritten on a yellow notepad, with notes scribbled in the margin, and Nobel had discussed it with no one. (Click here for the full text of the will).
After he died of a stroke at his villa in Italy in 1896, shock and controversy ensued when it was discovered that Nobel had bequeathed the bulk of his fortune (the equivalent of $214 million in today’s money) for the establishment of what would come to be known as the Nobel Prizes: coveted and prestigious annual prizes in five categories, awarded without distinction of nationality. Ragnar Sohlman and Rudolf Lilljequist, two of Nobel’s young engineers, were named as executors, and one of their first tasks was to collect Nobel’s far-flung assets and move them quickly back to Sweden before French authorities could make claim to the money. Nobel’s shares, bonds and documents were rounded up and hurried to the Swedish consulate in Paris by horse-drawn cab, escorted by Sohlman, who was armed with a revolver ‘at the ready in case of direct attack’.
The will was incredibly controversial, and was indeed flawed, imprecise and legally deficient. Apparently Nobel had had such negative experiences with lawyers (‘niggling parasites’, as he referred to them) when defending his dynamite patents that he had drawn up the will himself. Initially, Nobel’s permanent domicile could not be easily determined since he had lived in so many countries. To complicate matters, the executors were left the task of forming the Foundation, which was done in Sweden where the will was eventually probated. Nobel had not even consulted the various Prize-awarding institutions to seek their consent to participate in the awarding of the Prizes. Most surprisingly for Nobel’s relatives, this third will contradicted an earlier will in that Nobel’s heirs, instead of receiving twenty percent of the estate would now only receive specific legacies. Two bitter nephews quickly challenged the will and tried to have it declared null and void, however, another nephew residing in Russia told Sohlman about the Russian concept that the executor is ‘the spokesman of the soul’ of the testator. King Oscar II of Sweden added fuel to the fire when he dismissed Nobel’s wishes as ‘nonsensical’ and ’not patriotic minded’ because his property would now be dispersed internationally. King Oscar II later recanted his disapproval when he realized that publicity about the prizes might, in fact, benefit Sweden, and in 1902, handed out the first prizes to the laureates on December 10, the anniversary of Nobel’s death.
Jennifer Hartman, guest blogger
A trip through the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum, a ride on the Maid of the Mist, catching a flick at the IMAX Theatre, posing for goofy pictures at Louis Tussaud’s Waxworks. Oooh – don’t forget the big breakfast at HoJo’s after the late night at the Casino. Ah, the cultural attractions of Niagara Falls, Canada.
Did I mention Ramses I?
Three thousand years ago, Ramses I was the founder of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt. After ruling for just two years, he died and was buried in the Valley of the Kings in 1290 B.C. (same neighbourhood as King Tutankhamun, for those of you who follow these things). Grave-robbing was rampant in those days, and while the coffin of Ramses I was eventually recovered in 1881, it was found to be empty.
A collective scholarly exercise of connect-the-dots suggests that the mummified remains were ultimately sold for seven pounds (now there’s a bargain in these tough economic times!) to a Canadian physician named James Douglas who had apparently acquired the mummy for a museum owner in Niagara Falls. The remains were placed on exhibit in The Niagara Falls Museum, sharing floor space with a two-headed calf, a five-legged pig, and a collection of barrels showcasing the daredevil history of the Falls.
When the museum shut its doors in 1999, the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Atlanta’s Emory University procured the remains, and the mummy thereafter underwent a barrage of medical investigative techniques including CT scans, X-rays, computer imaging, and of course, radiocarbon dating. The puzzle pieces all fit; the position of the arms high across the chest, carbon dating to 3,000 years old, the quality of the mummification, not to mention the physical resemblance to Ramses the Great.
On October 25, 2003, after negotiations between the Michael C. Carlos Museum and Egyptian authorities, Ramses I finally returned home to Egypt where he is now on display in a special annex to the Luxor Museum. As foretold in the Book of the Dead: "Fleeter than greyhounds, quicker than a shadow, I have traveled the Earth. I come to you without a witness against me."
Jennifer Hartman, Guest Blogger
P.S. Nothing beats breakfast at HoJos the morning after the Casino.
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
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
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
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
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