Category: Guardianship

16 Sep

Congratulations Britney!

Doreen So Capacity, Common Law Spouses, Estate Planning, Ethical Issues, Executors and Trustees, General Interest, Guardianship, In the News, News & Events, Online presence, Recently, Uncategorized Tags: , , , , , , 0 Comments

 

Our blog has been following Britney Spears’ conservatorship proceeding closely in the recent months.  So far, the #FreeBritney movement has seen significant progress through the appointment of a new lawyer for Britney, and very recently through Jamie Spears’ petition to end the conservatorship.  Even though Britney is still under a conservatorship of property and of person, the iconic popstar surprised the world with her engagement to long-time boyfriend, Sam Asghari.

This fantastic news follows Britney’s stunning court testimony back in June that she wanted to be able to get married and have a baby but that she was told that she could not do so because of the conservatorship.

To celebrate Britney’s engagement, I wanted to share Justice Benotto’s words in Calvert (Litigation Guardian of) v. Calvert, 1997 CanLii 12096, as affirmed by the Court of Appeal in 1998 CanLii 3001, with leave to the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed:

“A person’s right of self-determination is an important philosophical and legal principle. A person can be capable of making a basic decision and not capable of making a complex decision. Dr. Molloy, the director of the Geriatric Research Group and Memory Centre and associate professor of geriatrics at McMaster University, said:

Different aspects of daily living and decision-making are now viewed separately. The ability to manage finances, consent to treatment, stand trial, manage personal care, make personal care or health decisions, all require separate decision- making capabilities and assessments.

[…]

The contract of marriage has been described as the essence of simplicity, not requiring a high degree of intelligence to comprehend: Park, supra, at p. 1427.”

While the foregoing passage may not sound particularly romantic, the notion that marriage is the essence of simplicity seems rather befitting to the intimate decision that was made between Britney and Sam.

Britney is not yet a “freed” woman, but as her song goes,

”All I need is time (is all I need)

A moment that is mine

While I’m in between”.

Thanks for sharing your engagement moment with us Britney! Click here for the video of “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman”.

Doreen So

17 Aug

Considerations for Determining the Validity of Powers of Attorney and Appointing Guardians for Property and Personal Care

Sanaya Mistry Capacity, Estate & Trust, Estate Litigation, Guardianship, Litigation, Power of Attorney Tags: , , , , , 0 Comments

In yesterday’s blog, I discussed the recent decision in Rudin-Brown et al v. Brown, 2021 ONSC 3366, focusing on the court’s decision in respect of the admissibility and weight given to the audio recordings of Carolyn Brown’s telephone conversations.

In today’s blog, I discuss the factors considered by the court in (i) determining that the 2016 powers of attorney were invalid, and (ii) declaring Carolyn’s 2009 power of attorney for property to be operative, and (iii) appointing Jeanne and Missy as Carolyn’s co-guardians of the person.

The court applied the factors outlined in  Royal Trust Corporation of Canada v. Saunders,  [2006] OJ No 2291, to determine whether or not Carolyn’s 2016 powers of attorney were executed under suspicious circumstances. Particularly, the court considered the following:

  1. The extent of physical and mental impairment of the grantor around the time the powers of attorney were signed;
  2. Whether the powers of attorney in question constitutes a significant change from the former powers of attorney;
  3. The factual circumstances surrounding the execution of the powers of attorney; and
  4. Whether any grantee was instrumental in the preparation of the powers of attorney.

Note, the consideration of “whether the will in question generally seems to make testamentary sense” does not apply to powers of attorney.

The court noted that, among other things, (i) there was evidence that Carolyn was having memory issues at the time the powers of attorney were signed, (ii) after visiting two law firms without success, Gordon downloaded forms for powers of attorney and some will templates from the internet, and (iii) one of the witnesses to the powers of attorney testified that Carolyn seemed “vaguely puzzled” the day she witnessed Carolyn’s signature and also stated that Carolyn said that Gordon had told her to sign the powers of attorney.

The court concluded that the powers of attorney were executed under suspicious circumstances in respect of capacity and undue influence. The court also concluded that Gordon failed to prove that Carolyn had capacity to execute the powers of attorney and declared the powers of attorney to be invalid. In addition, the court found that Gordon “failed to show that Carolyn signed the powers of attorney as a result of her own “full, free and informed thought” and has failed to rebut the presumption of undue influence arising from his and Carolyn’s relationship” and therefore concluded that “even if Carolyn had the capacity to sign one or both powers of attorney, they are not valid due to undue influence.”

In respect of appointing guardians of property and personal care for Carolyn, the court did not solely rely on Carolyn’s 2009 powers of attorney, but rather entered into a detailed analysis to determine who would be appointed as Carolyn’s guardians. As noted by Justice H. J. Williams,

“In appointing a guardian for property, the court shall consider whether the proposed guardian is the attorney under a continuing power of attorney, the incapable person’s current wishes and the closeness of the applicant’s relationship to the incapable person. Where there is an ongoing valid power of attorney, cases in Ontario and elsewhere have held that the court must first determine whether there is strong evidence of misconduct or neglect on the part of the attorney before the court should ignore the wishes of the donor.”

The court did “not hesitate to find that, in accordance with Carolyn’s 2009 power of attorney for property, Jeanne should be Carolyn’s guardian for property and that Carter should be the alternative attorney.” The court noted that in Carolyn’s 2009 power of attorney for personal care, Carolyn had named Gordon and Missy as her attorneys for personal care. While the court was satisfied that Missy would be able to fulfill the duties of guardian of the person, the court was not satisfied that Gordon would be able to do so for several reasons, some of which are outlined below:

  1. “A guardian must make decisions that are in the incapable person’s best interests”, which Gordon had failed to do consistently for Carolyn.
  2. “A guardian must seek to foster regular personal contact between the incapable person and supportive family members and friends” and Gordon failed to foster Carolyn’s relationships with Missy or Jeanne.
  3. “Gordon did not consult anyone other than Carolyn in preparing his guardianship plan.”
  4. Gordon intended to “discontinue a companion service for Carolyn that had been recommended for her and that she had been receiving and apparently enjoying.” Although Gordon said that “Carolyn does not remember the visits and is unhappy with how much they cost”, the court found that “it is more likely that Gordon was unhappy about the cost.”
  5. The court was also concerned by the fact that Gordon had failed to follow court orders. He failed to comply with Justice Kershman’s “order to stop recording Carolyn’s conversations.” It is important to note that the court found that “it was evident from Gordon’s evidence that he felt justified in ignoring a court order if he did not agree with it.”

In summary, the court concluded that “it is in Carolyn’s best interests for Missy and Jeanne to be jointly appointed as Carolyn’s full guardians of the person.”

Thank you for reading.

Sanaya Mistry

 

16 Aug

Are Audio Recordings Admissible?

Sanaya Mistry Guardianship, Hull on Estate and Succession Planning, Hull on Estates, Litigation, Podcasts Tags: , , , , , 0 Comments

In the recent decision of Rudin-Brown et al v. Brown, 2021 ONSC 3366, Justice H. J. Williams discusses the admissibility of audio recordings.

This case involves Carolyn Brown, who is 91 years old, Gordon Brown (Carolyn’s son who lives with her), Christina (“Missy”) Rudin-Brown (Carolyn’s daughter) and Jeanne Brown (Carolyn’s sister-in-law). Around 2008, Missy noticed Carolyn was having some memory problems which became more obvious around 2012. Gordon maintains that other than occasional memory lapses, Carolyn was fine until June 2017 when her memory declined suddenly and noticeably.

In September 2016, Carolyn signed powers of attorney appointing Gordon as her attorney for property and personal care. The 2016 powers of attorney replaced her 2009 powers of attorney which appointed Jeanne as her attorney for property, and Missy and Gordon as her attorneys for personal care. Carolyn also signed a new will in September 2016 appointing Gordon as the executor and the beneficiary of the residue of her estate, replacing her 2009 Will which appointed Jeanne as the executor and divided the residue of her estate equally among Gordon, Missy and Zachary Brown (the son of Carolyn’s late daughter, Sandra).

There were two competing applications before the court for the guardianship of Carolyn – one was brought by Missy and Jeanne and the other by Gordon. These applications were consolidated by Justice Kershman and a trial was ordered.

Although there were a few issues dealt with in this trial, for the purposes of this blog, I will focus on the court’s decision on the issue of whether the recordings of Carolyn’s conversations made by Gordon were admissible and if so, how they may be used as evidence.

Gordon sought to introduce into evidence 15 recordings of Carolyn’s telephone conversations he made in 2017. Also, Missy and Jeanne tendered one of Gordon’s recordings and an excerpt from another. In deciding whether these recordings were admissible, the court considered many factors including the origin of the recordings, whether Carolyn knew and fully approved of these recordings, as well as the probative value and prejudicial effect of admitting these recordings into evidence.

Among other things, Justice H. J. Williams clearly noted that “the manner in which evidence is obtained, no matter how improper or illegal, is not an impediment to its admission at common law”. It was important for the court to consider and weigh the prejudicial effect of the evidence against the probative value. Specially, the court noted that:

“The court nonetheless maintains a general exclusionary discretion to exclude otherwise admissible evidence if the prejudicial effect outweighs the probative value. Evidence may be excluded under this cost-benefit analysis if its probative value is overborne by its prejudicial effect, if it involves an inordinate amount of time to present the evidence that is not commensurate with its value, or if it is misleading in that its effect on the trier of fact is out of proportion to its reliability as probative material.”

The court found Missy’s side of the recorded conversations to be more probative than prejudicial and the conversations between Gordon and Carolyn to be highly probative and therefore admitted. The court had concerns regarding Carolyn’s side of the recorded conversations, particularly because Carolyn was not able to testify. The court discussed the fact that Gordon only produced the recordings he thought were relevant as well as considered whether Carolyn’s side of the conversations truly represented Carolyn’s views and state of mind.

Importantly, the court did not accept Gordon’s evidence that Carolyn knew he was recording her and that she had authorized him to do so. The court noted that during a conversation, Carolyn did not want to speak about something with “you know who around”, referring to Gordon. If she had known that all her conversations were being recorded, Gordon being around would have been irrelevant. As a result, the court found that “Carolyn did not agree to have her conversations recorded, or, if she did, she did not appreciate what she was agreeing to.”

Interestingly, the court noted that although “surreptitious audio and video recordings should be strongly discouraged by the courts” because they foster distrust and have a toxic effect on future relationships, if the recordings and the evidence that flowed from them were excluded in this case, the court would be “left to decide the case based on a record [the court knows] to be incomplete.”

On the issue of the audio recordings, Justice H. J. Williams “with some reluctance, concluded that the recordings are admissible” and the court “will place little weight on Carolyn’s side of the conversations.”

For a more in-depth discussion on this case and admissibility of audio recordings, please listen to last week’s podcast on Hull on Estates.

Thank you for reading.

Sanaya Mistry

15 Jul

What kind of Evidence is needed in an Uncontested Guardianship Application?

Rebecca Rauws Guardianship Tags: , , , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

Guardianship litigation can be messy and upsetting to those involved in such proceedings, particularly when there are multiple family members fighting over who should act as guardian.

It is also possible for a guardianship application to be brought on an uncontested basis, meaning that no one is opposing the appointment of the proposed guardian. That being said, given that the appointment of a guardian is a serious restriction on a person’s liberty, the courts do not take guardianship appointments lightly, and still have strict requirements for evidence, even in uncontested guardianships.

Pursuant to s. 22(1) of the Substitute Decisions Act, 1992 (the “SDA”), and s. 55(1) of the SDA, the court may appoint a guardian of property and/or personal care for a person who is incapable of managing property and/or personal care if, as a result of that incapacity it is necessary for decisions to be made on his or her behalf by a person authorized to do so.

Least Restrictive Course of Action

Sections 22(3) and 55(2) of the SDA provide an important restriction on the court’s ability to appoint a guardian, requiring that a court not appoint a guardian if it is satisfied that the need for decisions to be made will be met by an alternative course of action that is less restrictive of the person’s decision-making rights than the appointment of a guardian.

In particular, if a person has made a power of attorney for property or personal care naming the individual(s) who they wish to make decisions on their behalf in the event of their incapacity, the court may be reluctant to appoint a guardian and override the person’s own choice of a substitute decision-maker. Accordingly, a guardianship application should include evidence as to whether the alleged incapable person has executed powers of attorney, and what efforts the applicant has made to determine whether powers of attorney exist.

It is also important to remember that even if a person is incapable of managing their property or personal care, he or she may still be capable of making a power of attorney in this regard. Allowing a person to name their own substitute decision maker will of course be less restrictive of his or her decision-making rights than the court imposing a guardian on him or her. Accordingly, a person’s capacity to make powers of attorney should always be considered in the context of a guardianship application, and evidence in this regard should be provided to the court.

Furthermore, if a person is capable of naming his or her own attorney by executing powers of attorney, it may be possible to avoid the costs of a guardianship application, which can be significant.

A Finding of Incapacity is Required

There is also a statutory requirement in s. 58(1) of the SDA that the court make a finding of incapacity in order to appoint a guardian. The court will require evidence in support of a finding of incapacity. Most frequently, this will take the form of a capacity assessment by a trained capacity assessor.

Sometimes applicants are hesitant to obtain a capacity assessment of an alleged incapable person, either due to the cost of the assessment, fear of upsetting the person, or some other reason. While these concerns are understandable, it is important that the court be provided with evidence sufficient to allow it to make the finding of incapacity. Otherwise, it will not be able to appoint a guardian. The cost of the capacity assessment will almost certainly be less than the cost of bringing a guardianship application, only to be unsuccessful when the court is unwilling to appoint a guardian without adequate evidence to satisfy it as to incapacity.

A capacity assessment is also useful as it may reveal that an alleged incapable person does have some level of capacity. As noted above, a person may be capable of executing a power of attorney, even if he or she is incapable of managing his or her own property or personal care. In that case, a guardianship application may be able to be avoided altogether.

Thanks for reading,

Rebecca Rauws

 

These other blog posts may also be of interest to you:

15 Mar

Model Orders for the Estates List in the Toronto Region!  

Sanaya Mistry Capacity, Estate & Trust, Estate Litigation, Guardianship, Litigation, Passing of Accounts, Power of Attorney, Support After Death, Trustees, Wills Tags: , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

The Consolidated Practice Direction Concerning the Estates List in the Toronto Region was established for the hearing of certain proceedings involving estate, trust and capacity law, applying to matters on the Estates List in the Toronto Region.

As of March 9, 2021, Part VII (Contested Matters – Estates) of this practice direction was amended to make reference to model orders prepared by the Estate List Users’ Committee.

Generally, parties are expected to take the time and care to prepare proposed orders giving directions for consideration by the court. If the parties are unable to agree upon an order giving directions and a contested motion for directions is required, each party must file a copy of the draft order giving directions it is seeking with its motion materials.

 

In addition to providing requirements for what orders giving directions should address, where applicable, this practice direction now includes the following model orders:

  1. Order Giving Directions – Appointment of Section 3 Counsel
  2. Order Giving Directions – Power of Attorney/Guardianship Disputes
  3. Order Giving Directions – Will Challenge
  4. Order Giving Directions – Dependant’s Support
  5. Order Giving Directions – Passing of Accounts

 

As noted in the practice direction, the preparation of draft orders for consideration by the court will greatly expedite the issuance of orders.  Where the relevant model orders have been approved by the Estate List Users’ Committee, a copy of the draft order showing all variations sought from the model order must be filed.

The addition of model orders can greatly benefit the Estates List in the Toronto Region. Among other things, these model orders provide a baseline for all parties, such that it can significantly reduce drafting time and potential disagreements on wording among parties, which in turn can increase efficiency and reduce costs.

Many thanks to the Estate List Users’ Committee for their time and efforts in preparing these model orders!

Thank you for reading.

 

Sanaya Mistry

03 Feb

A Third Look at PGT v Cherneyko, 2021

Ian Hull Capacity, Elder Law, Guardianship, Litigation, Power of Attorney Tags: , , , , , , 0 Comments

Earlier this year, our colleague Doreen So, blogged in two parts (here and here) on the matter of PGT v Cherneyko. It is a blog that discusses a litany of failures by an attorney for property. While Doreen covered the facts in full, they are worth repeating here in part:

“Jean Cherneyko is a 90-year-old woman.  Jean did not have any children of her own.  Her closest known relative was a niece in the US.  By the time of the PGT application, Jean was in a long-term care home.  Prior to that, Jean lived alone in the same home that she had lived in since 1969.  Jean had a friend named Tina who she had known for about five years.  On August 15, 2019, Jean and Tina went to a lawyer’s office.  Jean named Tina as her attorney for property and personal care.  Jean also made a new Will which named Tina as the estate trustee and sole beneficiary of her estate.  A week or so later on August 27th, Jean and Tina went to Jean’s bank where $250,000.00 was transferred to Tina […]”

The PGT applied to take over as guardian for property and, among other things, to set aside the gift to Tina. The court agreed and ordered the $250,000 returned to Jean on the basis of resulting trust.

In a novel approach to the law of gifts, the court in Cherneyko relied on Pecore to establish that the gift ought to be returned, saying: “The leading Canadian case on the law of gifts, the Supreme Court of Canada in Pecore v Pecore, 2007 SCC 17 (CanLII) at paras. 24-26 established that where a gratuitous transfer of property is found, there is a presumption of a resulting trust. The onus falls to the recipient to rebut the presumption.” In the court’s view, Tina failed to rebut the presumption.

But this represents a new application of the Supreme Court’s analysis and it’s worth revisiting Pecore.

In 2007, Justice Rothstein, writing for a unanimous court (Justice Abella concurring) looked closely at gratuitous gifts of joint bank accounts, between parents and children, and whether the presumption of resulting trust and advancement applied in modern times:

“The presumption of resulting trust is a rebuttable presumption of law and general rule that applies to gratuitous transfers.  When a transfer is challenged, the presumption allocates the legal burden of proof.  Thus, where a transfer is made for no consideration, the onus is placed on the transferee to demonstrate that a gift was intended: see Waters’ Law of Trusts, at p. 375, and E. E. Gillese and M. Milczynski, The Law of Trusts (2nd ed. 2005), at p. 110.  This is so because equity presumes bargains, not gifts.”

The decision in Cherneyko represents a significant expansion of the principles of Pecore by applying them to inter vivos gifts between unrelated adults. Traditionally, if the courts determine that a transferor lacked the requisite capacity, the gift is void as the transferor lacked the capacity to form the proper intention to gift. Ball v. Mannin, an almost 200-year-old UK case established the original test for granting a gift and held that a person had capacity if the person was “capable of understanding what he did by executing the deed in question, when its general purport was fully explained to him.” The Supreme Court has previously outlined a separate test in Geffen v Goodman Estate in 1991, examining the nature of the relationship itself, and applying a presumption of undue influence where there is the presence of a dominant relationship. While the failed gift in Cherneyko was ultimately returned under a resulting trust, it will be fascinating to see if other courts also continue this expansion of Pecore.  We’ll keep you posted.

Thanks for reading!

Ian Hull and Daniel Enright

 

19 Jan

PGT vs. Cherneyko, Part 2: Breaches of Fiduciary Duty in the Time of Covid

Doreen So Capacity, Ethical Issues, Executors and Trustees, Guardianship, Litigation, Power of Attorney Tags: , , , , , 0 Comments

Yesterday, I blogged on Public Guardian and Trustee v. Cherneyko et al, 2021 ONSC 107.  Today’s blog will focus on some of the breaches of fiduciary duty that were found by the Court.  For those who have not read yesterday’s blog, this is a case that involves Jean, a 90 year old woman, and Tina, the attorney for property, who was purportedly given a gift of $250,000.00 just days before Jean was hospitalized for acute delirium and progressive cognitive decline.

While the purported gift of $250,000.00 to Tina was found to be invalid, the Court went on to find that Tina was in breach of her fiduciary duty to Jean by accepting the money.  Tina was in breach because she knew that Jean was exhibiting signs of cognitive decline when they went to the bank.  In the Court’s view,

“a person acting in a fiduciary capacity for a person actively demonstrating moments of irrationality should be very cautious about any big financial moves that person claims they want to make in and around such periods of demonstrated incapacity. Even if Jean was clearly acting in a competent manner during the few hours she attended the CIBC with Tina on August 27, 2019, I agree with the submissions of the PGT it is no answer to an accusation of breach of duty to assert that an attorney was simply acting in accordance with the wishes of the grantor of the attorney. Tina should have proceeded with caution at that time. I find she did not exercise the appropriate degree of caution and good judgment given the circumstances about which she knew.” (para 42)

The Court also reiterated Justice Penny’s comments in Ontario (Public Guardian and Trustee) v. Harkins, [2011] O.J. No. 3313,  that a fiduciary’s first duty is to see to the best interest of the person regardless of what their stated wishes may be.  The Court was very critical of how a $250,000.00 gift to Tina could possibly benefit Jean, and expressed disapproval on how there was no evidence of any effort on Tina’s part in considering whether this money would better serve Jean if it was applied towards Jean’s in-home care instead of admitting Jean to a long term care home.

Of relevance to the unique circumstances that surround the care of others during Covid-19, the Court commented that,

“since March 2020 more than at any time in the past, any genuinely concerned person charged with caring for an elderly person in long term care would have at least considered the issue of taking whatever steps could be taken to remove the person from this situation if it was in any way possible.” (para. 47)

Instead, Tina allowed her adult son to move into Jean’s home, and she was found to be actively misusing Jean’s assets for her own and her family’s benefit which were additional breaches of her duties as fiduciary.  The Court also disapproved of how Tina did not take any steps to sell Jean’s house in order to maximize or preserve its value which, reading between the lines, seem to be a concern for the uncertainty in today’s markets.

Thanks for reading!  Stay safe!

Doreen So

 

18 Jan

PGT vs. Cherneyko, Part 1: Context and Timing is Everything

Doreen So Capacity, Elder Law, General Interest, Guardianship, Power of Attorney, Uncategorized Tags: , , , , , 0 Comments

Right from the start, 2021 is starting to look like it will be another extraordinary year of historic significance.  In the world of estates, trusts, and capacity litigation, there was a decision released on January 5th where serious breaches of fiduciary duty by an attorney for property were found and the PGT was ordered to take over.  The facts in Public Guardian and Trustee v. Cherneyko et al, 2021 ONSC 107, read like a law school case study and the reasons are worth noting.

Jean Cherneyko is a 90 year old woman.  Jean did not have any children of her own.  Her closest known relative was a niece in the US.  By the time of the PGT application, Jean was in a long term care home.  Prior to that, Jean lived alone in the same home that she had lived in since 1969.  Jean had a friend named Tina who she had known for about five years.  On August 15, 2019, Jean and Tina went to a lawyer’s office.  Jean named Tina as her attorney for property and personal care.  Jean also made a new Will which named Tina as the estate trustee and sole beneficiary of her estate.  A week or so later on August 27th, Jean and Tina went to Jean’s bank where $250,000.00 was transferred to Tina, and $195,329.50 was transferred to Jean’s niece.  Days later on August 31st, Jean was hospitalized for acute delirium and progressive cognitive decline.  During Jean’s admission, Tina noted that Jean had become increasingly confused over the prior few months and that Jean exhibited lethargic behaviour and complained of bodily soreness.  On September 1, 2019, Jean was diagnosed as being cognitively impaired.  Thereafter, Jean was transferred to long term care on October 1st based on Tina’s authorization as Jean’s attorney for property.  Short time after that, Tina’s son moved into Jean’s home and the PGT started to investigate in March, 2020 when the bank froze Jean’s accounts.

As a result of their investigation, the PGT brought an application to remove and replace Tina as Jean’s attorney for property.  The PGT also sought to set aside the $250,000.00 transfer to Tina and the return of various other sums that were received by Tina, which totalled approximately $350,000.00.

First, the Court found that the transfer of $250,000.00 to Tina was not a gift.  Tina failed to rebut the presumption of resulting trust for the gratuitous transfer.  Tina put forth evidence that there was a bank manager who spoke to Jean at the time of the transfer, and that the banker told Jean that she would have still have enough money to live after the transfers to Tina and the her niece.  This evidence was tendered through Tina’s affidavit without any direct evidence from the banker.  The Court disregarded Tina’s reliance on the banker’s involvement because Tina herself had deposed that Jean was having “moments of delirium and irrationality, her condition fluctuated between lucidity and confusion” in late August, 2019 (para. 31) and there was no evidence that the banker was informed.

The Court also seriously questioned whether any of the payments to Tina were truly what “Jean wanted” because Jean’s power of attorney for property clearly stated that there was to be no compensation.  The Court agreed with the PGT’s contention that Tina should not have paid herself $2,000.00 per month in compensation and on how that sum was unreasonably high given that Jean’s long term care costs were only $2,701.61 per month.

The value of the transfers, which was about a quarter of Jean’s net worth at the time, when considered in the context of Jean’s September 1st diagnosis also led the Court to find that Jean lacked capacity to gift Tina such a substantial sum.

The Court’s focus on context, timing, and proportionality as benchmarks in its analysis are very important for litigators and advisors to keep in mind.

Stayed tuned this week for Part 2 on Cherneyko: the breaches of fiduciary duty.

Thanks for reading,

Doreen So

 

18 Aug

Lawyer’s Affidavits on Approval Motions: What’s Required?

Hull & Hull LLP Estate Litigation, Guardianship Tags: , , , 0 Comments

The court’s authority to approve settlements of claims that impact the interests of persons under a legal disability, including minors and incapable persons, is well-known.  Rule 7.08 of the Rules of Civil Procedure provides that any settlement of claims made by or against a person under disability is not binding unless approved by a judge.  Implicit in this Rule is that the court is to ensure that a settlement impacting the rights of individuals who cannot legally consent to such a settlement is, in fact, in the best interests of those individuals.

Rule 7.08(4) lists the court material that must be delivered as part of any such motion for court approval and includes, among other items, an affidavit of the lawyer acting for the litigation guardian of the incapable person “setting out the lawyer’s position” vis-à-vis the proposed settlement.  In the recent decision of the Superior Court of Justice in Grier v Grier, the Court grappled with the extent of the lawyer’s obligations in preparing such an affidavit, particularly when questions of privilege are invoked.

In the Grier decision, the parties to the litigation had agreed on terms of settlement.  However, as they were both under a legal disability, the parties brought a motion seeking court approval of the settlement not only on their behalf, but also on behalf of two non-parties whose interests were impacted by the settlement.  One of the non-parties, S, brought a subsequent motion seeking copies of the materials exchanged by the parties in the litigation generally, as well as on the motion for court approval.

The court denied the former on the basis that the non-party was not entitled to service of any court material exchanged by the parties unless otherwise ordered by the court, as she had not filed a Notice of Appearance.  As to the latter, the parties had previously agreed to an order that the two non-parties would be entitled to service of materials relating to settlement.  As such, the court found that S was entitled to service of the materials for the motion for court approval.

However, the main issue before the court related to the adequacy of the materials produced.  The parties had each served the non-parties with incomplete motion materials, including affidavits of counsel for the litigation guardians which had select sections omitted on the basis of privilege.  S, as moving party, sought disclosure of the complete motion materials inclusive of the omissions.

The Court considered the authorities, including the Rivera and Boone decisions, and held that lawyers delivering affidavits pursuant to Rule 7.08(4) ought to be more than capable of doing so without breaching privilege.  The lawyer’s obligation in that respect is to simply provide assurance to the court that they advised their client as competent counsel would and that the settlement is in their client’s best interests.

Should counsel go further than is required under the Rule, then as the judge in Boone pithily held, “that is counsel’s problem.”  If necessary, alternative relief, such as sealing orders, may be considered, but at first instance, it is clear that the court will expect counsel to be able to draft materials in such a way so as to discharge their obligation without butting up against questions of privilege.

Thanks for reading.

Garrett Horrocks

21 Jul

Fantasy Tuesday: How to #FreeBritney in Ontario

Doreen So Capacity, Guardianship, In the News, Litigation, Uncategorized Tags: , , 0 Comments

The #FreeBritney movement is a social media movement driven by the fans of Britney Spears, and it has been trending recently this month according to Global News.  Britney’s fans are concerned that Britney is being mistreated by her legal conservators.  Britney Spears has been under a court-ordered conservatorship since 2008.

In the years leading up to Britney’s conservatorship, there were a multitude of public incidents that called Britney’s wellbeing into question, the most iconic of which was perhaps the viral, tabloid photograph of Britney shaving her head in 2007.  In 2008, Britney was involuntarily hospitalized after police were called to her home.  Thereafter, Britney was placed under an interim conservatory order, which was ultimately made permanent.  Britney’s conservatorship meant that her father, James Spears, and lawyer, Andrew Wallet, had complete control of Britney’s assets, which is similar to a guardianship of property under the Ontario Substitute Decisions Act, 1992.  James Spears was given control of Britney’s health like a guardianship of person.

Despite being stripped of the right to control her own property and personal care, Britney’s career has flourished in the twelve years after 2008.  During the first year of her conservatorship alone, Britney appeared on television shows and even released a new album (Circus). Britney went on to release 3 more albums after that, and she was the star of a four-year concert residency in Las Vegas (which was excellent in my humble opinion).  Britney was also a judge on the television competition show, X Factor, where the judges of the show mentor and critique contestants on their performances.  For a list of her accomplishments, check out Britney’s extensive Wikipedia page.

In Ontario, a person is incapable of managing property if “the person is not able to understand information that is relevant to making a decision in the management of his or her property, or is not able to appreciate the reasonably foreseeable consequences of a decision or lack of decision” (section 6 of the SDA).

With that in mind, Britney’s role as a judge on X Factor and her reactions on the show seem to show that she was appropriately reacting to the performances of the contestants and that she understood what was at stake in the competition.  However, the lay opinion of her fans (myself included) alone would be insufficient to satisfy the statutory requirements of a motion to terminate guardianship of property and person under Part III of the SDA.  If the motion is brought on a summary basis under section 73 of the Act, the moving party must include one statement from a capacity assessor and one statement by a second assessor or someone who knows the person, which indicate the following:

(a) that the maker of the statement is of the opinion that the person is capable of managing property, and set out the facts on which the opinion is based; and

(b) that the maker of the statement expects no direct or indirect pecuniary benefit as the result of the termination of the guardianship.

Similar statements are required to terminate a guardianship of person.

Earlier this year, Britney’s conservatorship was extended until at least August 22, 2020.

#FreeBritney and thanks for reading,

Doreen So

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