Category: In the News

04 Dec

Burial Error Leaves Families Reeling

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A cemetery in the UK is dealing with the awkward question of what to do about a man who was buried in the wrong grave. 

The 26 year old was vacationing in Spain when he was stabbed to death. After being returned home to Britain, he was inadvertently laid to rest in a grave reserved for the widow of another man (the widow and her late husband had bought side-by-side plots so they could be buried next to each other).

The two families have been unable to reach consensus as to what to do. The murder victim’s family, who had to wait two years for the body to be returned to them due to the criminal investigation, wants the man to remain where he’s been buried. On the other hand, the widow, who had bought the plot with her husband so they could be buried together, wants the body exhumed so that on her death she can be buried where she, well, paid to be buried. 

At this point, as the families can’t agree it appears that the Church court for the Diocese of Lichfield in England will make the final decision in the new year. 

What a horrible situation – clearly neither family is at fault,  and, no matter the decision, someone is going to wind up devastated. 

On a more pleasant note, have a great weekend!

Megan F. Connolly

Megan F. Connolly – Click here for more information about Megan Connolly.

03 Dec

Michael Jackson Estate – Litigation Update

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Michael Jackson’s estate is back in the news. A Quebec art collector is suing Jackson’s estate as well as a US-based auction house after a planned auction of memorabilia from Jackson’s Neverland ranch was cancelled last spring. 

Apparently, there were 2000 items put up for auction, but Jackson pulled out at the last minute, forcing the cancellation of the auction. 

The collector had bid on approximately 170 items and claims that, at the time the auction was cancelled, he was the highest bidder on about half those items. He claims that in cancelling the auction, Jackson and the auction house denied the collector the opportunity to amass the largest memorabilia collection of its kind in the world. 

For its part, the auction house has dismissed the claim as frivolous and says that it is well protected by the terms and conditions bidders are required to agree to prior to placing a bid. It also argues that just because the collector was the highest bidder on a number of items at the time the auction was cancelled, does not mean he would have remained the highest bidder had the auction continued.  

The article notes that while the collector had bid on items, he hadn’t actually paid for anything which, I imagine, will make his claim a little harder to prove. 

In other news, TMZ reports that Prince Michael Malachi Jet Jackson, the 24 year old who alleges that he was Jackson’s love child has announced he intends to pursue a claim against Jackson’s estate. He is asking a California court to declare him as Jackson’s child and award him “whatever benefits he’s entitled to.” 

Have a great day!

Megan F. Connolly

Megan F. Connolly – Click here for more information on Megan Connolly.

02 Dec

Cremations Go Green

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I have previously blogged about the trend toward more environmentally-friendly burials and recently came across an article about bio-cremation

Cremation, as it turns out, is not a “green” way to lay a loved one to rest. A standard cremation releases about 900 pounds of carbon dioxide into the air (not to mention other chemicals) – as well as the same amount of energy (in the form as natural gas and energy) as it would take to drive from Toronto to Boston. 

A more environmentally-friendly solution is “bio-cremation”, a chemical body-disposal process used for disposing of lab animals or bodies used for medical research.   The process, called alkaline hydrolysis, entails submerging a body in a water-filled stainless steel chamber. Heat, pressure, and chemicals are then added to dissolve the tissue. After about two hours, bones that remain can be crushed and returned to the family, in the same way as traditional cremation. 

Bio-cremation comes with a hefty price tag – it is about four times more expensive than traditional cremation. However, the process uses 1/10 the natural gas and 1/3 the electricity as traditional cremation and emits 90% less carbon dioxide. 

For those interested, the process is not yet available in Canada. A Pittsburgh-based company is set to start offering it in the United States this coming January, while a Toronto-based company is hoping to bring it to this country in the spring.    

Have a great day!

Megan F. Connolly

Megan F. Connolly – Click here for more information on Megan Connolly.

30 Nov

Public Guardian and Trustee Declines to Intervene at Humane Society

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The Globe and Mail reports that the Office of the Public Guardian & Trustee has recently declined a request by the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to appoint an interim supervisor to oversee the Toronto Humane Society in the wake of the arrest of several staff members for animal cruelty. 

In Ontario, the Public Guardian & Trustee maintains oversight of the use of charitable property and has the authority to investigate charities regarding that use. 

In particular, the following are the general areas in which the Public Guardian & Trustee has the authority to investigate and intervene:

  1. Allegations charitable property is not being used for its intended purpose;
  2. Allegations that property is held in breach of legislation; and
  3. Complaints regarding those responsible for the administration of a charity, provided the complaint relates to how property is being administered.

There are a number of areas where the Public Guardian & Trustee does not have the right to intervene, including corporate governance issues, income tax issues, landlord-tenant disputes, and employment matters. 

The rationale the Public Guardian & Trustee has provided for declining to appoint a supervisor is that oversight of Toronto Humane Society is ultimately a corporate governance issue and that, as a result, it lacks authority to do so. It also does not have the authority to replace the board of directors of a charity, which it could be effectively doing by appointing a supervisor. 

Have a great day,

Megan F. Connolly

Megan F. Connolly – Click here for more information on Megan Connolly.

27 Nov

Checkmate? Fight over Chess Master’s Estate

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Bobby Fischer died in 2008 in Iceland at the age of 64. The tawdry details of his life often overshadowed the genius of his game – he was a child prodigy, a teenage grandmaster and — before age 30 — a world champion who triumphed in a Cold War showdown with Soviet champion, Boris Spassky. Since his death, there has been a battle over his estate. Two nephews, a long-time companion (and spouse?) and a recent companion have all made claims against the estate. 

This month, it appeared that the long-time companion (and spouse?), Miyoko Watai, had won the battle against Fischer’s nephews, when her claim was certified by Iceland’s highest court, according to the website This would make her the sole heir to Fischer’s estate. However, a few days later, Marilyn Young of the Philippines apparently filed a claim in Iceland that her 8-year-old daughter, Jinky, was Fischer’s child. Ms. Young apparently provided photographs of her, Fischer and Jinky together and at least two postcards to Jinky signed “Daddy” that were said to be from Fischer. If Ms. Young’s claim is upheld, her daughter may be entitled to two-thirds of Fischer’s estate under Icelandic law.

Claims to Fischer’s estate will be settled in Iceland because he was a citizen of that country when he died, and he reportedly left no Will. His estate may be substantial. In 1992, he apparently was paid over $3 million for winning a rematch with his old rival, Boris Spassky.

There may be more surprise moves to come in this continuing saga. 

Have a great weekend!

Bianca La Neve

Bianca V. La Neve – Click here for more information on Bianca La Neve.

25 Nov

The Fight Over Boxer Gatti’s Estate

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 In a recent Québec decision, the young widow of the late boxing champion, Arturo Gatti, and mother to his son, has been awarded $40,000 to cover her legal fees and child care costs. Ms. Rodrigues had asked for a $150,000 advance and their dog. She had also sought to have an earlier Will in which she did not benefit declared invalid. 

At issue is the validity of two Wills that distribute the late boxer’s estate in very different ways. Ms. Rodrigues has submitted a recent Will signed this past June in Québec, which left the entire estate to her. Mr. Gatti’s family contend instead that a 2007 Will signed in New Jersey is the valid last Will. This Will leaves the bulk of the estate to Mr. Gatti’s mother. The Gatti family claim that the Québec Will was signed under duress. However, a signed original of the 2007 Will has apparently not yet been located by the Gatti family. Accordingly, Ms. Rodrigues sought to have this earlier Will declared invalid, an attempt that was rejected at this preliminary stage by Justice Chaput of the Québec Superior Court. He also ruled that custody of the couple’s dog was not an urgent matter for the time being.

Justice Chaput has urged both sides to come to a settlement to avoid a lengthy and costly court battle that could eat away at the estate, estimated to be $6 million. However, both sides seem prepared to go the distance in their legal fight. Stay turned for a real barnburner.

Thanks for reading,

Bianca La Neve

Bianca V. La Neve – Click here for more information on Bianca La Neve.

11 Nov

Remembrance Day – A Different Angle

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Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre houses Canada’s largest Veteran’s care facility, offering care to a current population of 500 vets, a few from the Korean War, but the majority of whom are from World War II. Residents are housed in two wings: the Kilgour Wing which promotes independent living, and the George Hees Wing with supportive care. Innovative dementia care is provided for Veterans in the Dorothy Macham Home, which is a therapeutic environment based on a residential model.

An article in last Saturday’s Toronto Star highlighted the unique challenges presented when a history of wartime service is coupled with a present day diagnosis of dementia. The hallmark of dementia is a (usually) progressive loss of memories, starting with the most recent memories formed. In a nutshell, this is why patients with dementia ‘forget’ that their spouse has died, or ‘forget’ that their children are now adults. For some of Sunnybrook’s Veterans, this means the war is not over. It is here. And it is now. According to Dr. Jocelyn Charles, medical director of the Veteran’s centre, behavioural problems in Sunnybrook’s dementia patients are twice as prevalent as the provincial average. In fact, in a study of Sunnybrook’s Veterans, 16 percent still showed active symptoms of PTSD, such as ‘distressing dreams, flashbacks and anxiety.’

Canada’s WWII veteran’s are dying at the rate of 400 a week.

Will you remember?

David M. Smith

David M. Smith – Click here for more information about David Smith.

21 Oct

Mentoring: An Offer You Can’t (or shouldn’t) Refuse

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On Monday I wrote about the importance of mentoring. Today I’d like to illustrate. A November 2008 report by former Superior Court Chief Justice Patrick LeSage and University of Toronto law professor (now Superior Court Justice) Michael Code questioned the adequacy of sanctions for courtroom misconduct.

Up until recently, judges had two options to deal with inappropriate behaviour in the courtroom: a finding of contempt or referral to the Law Society of Upper Canada for possible disciplinary action. Out of the Code/LeSage report has come the recommendation and recent implementation of mentoring as a third option for behaviour not serious enough to merit disciplinary action.

Mentoring has traditionally been a learning mechanism that is completely voluntary, in that it is sought out and arranged by mentor and mentee on a more or less informal basis. Mentoring is taken to the next level with the new LSUC Mentoring Referral Protocols, which invite Ontario Court and Superior Court judges to identify lawyers in need of mentoring. 

Requests go to LSUC’s CEO, Malcom Heins. If mentoring is considered an appropriate response, the lawyer will receive a letter identifying the impugned behaviour together with a consent form. If the lawyer accepts mentoring, he or she will be referred to the Advocates Society, the Criminal Lawyers Association or the Ministry of the Attorney General to be paired with an appropriate mentor in his or her area of practice. For more information see this article in The Lawyer’s Weekly.  

Many legal organizations offer mentoring on a casual, as needed or ongoing basis. Here are some for your reference, should you wish to be a mentee or a mentor:

  1. The Advocates’ Society
  2. The Criminal Lawyers’ Association
  3. The Law Society of Upper Canada
  4. The Ontario Bar Association
  5. The Women’s Law Association of Ontario

It is worth noting that although our regulator has reponsibility for those amongst us who do not act as we should, LSUC’s Mentorship Program extends far beyond the Mentoring Referral Protocols. It is comprised of three initiatives that match volunteer lawyers with those interested in becoming lawyers; students-at-law to provide assistance and advice with their careers; and practising lawyers in general need of advice.

Happy Mentoring!

Sharon Davis

Sharon Davis – Click here for more information on Sharon Davis.

16 Oct

Peer into the Crystal Ball: Business Opportunities in an Aging World

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

Whether it’s technology or tv trends, Japan seems to be light years ahead.  And we play catch-up (ok, not so with the stupid game shows).  Japan’s median age is 43.5, Canada’s is 39.1.  But since Japanese live longer (life expectancy of 82.12 versus Canada’s [still respectable] 81.23), we’re really only a few years behind.  So what can we learn from their population, which is a few years ahead of ours in dealing with an aging population?

The answer is: forget about cars, dvd players and even robots.  Funerals are very, very big business in Japan.  According to this Bloomberg article, the Japanese funeral industry is worth US$18 billion.   Last year, 1.14 million Japanese died, and funeral companies charge about $26,094.62 per funeral.  By 2040, 1.66 million will be dying every year.  Future growth is in death, and as Bloomberg notes, "everyone from railway companies to retailers wants a slice."   Funeral companies are stampeding towards Japan.

Unfortunately, things won’t be so rosy in Canada.  This is because Japanese funerals are mostly Bhuddist funerals, which are elaborate multi-day events involving chanting monks, flowers, meals, cremation ceremonies, jade urns and the like.  They are elaborate, exhausting events.  Our funerals are fast-forwarded commercial breaks by comparison.  But it is still a glimpse into the future.

Have a great weekend,

Chris Graham

Christopher M.B. Graham – Click here for more information on Chris Graham.


08 Oct

Robes? Check. Tabs? Check. Joystick? Huh?

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Off with the cufflinks. Roll up your sleeves. Grab your joystick and get ready for what may be the ultimate way for the estates and trusts practitioner to spend their lunch hour: Nintendo DS Safecracker.


As an expert safecracker, you have been hired by the wealthy family of a recently deceased billionaire in order to search for the Last Will and Testament of their late relative, oil tycoon Duncan W. Adams. Adams, both an avid safe collector and an eccentric recluse, has hidden the deed to his riches in one of the 35 safes scattered in his lavish 40-room, 3-storey mansion.

Of course, what last testament tale wouldn’t include a nod to the complexities of family dynamics? In addition to his Last Will, Adams has strewn around the mansion various snippets of information about himself and his descendants: letters, notes, postcards and even a diary, all of which allude to the inner workings of the family. 

Game on!

Jennifer Hartman, Guest Blogger


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