Category: News & Events

22 Aug

The Olympics from a Legal Perspective

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 The Beijing Olympic Games come to a close this weekend and the international sports community turns their attention to the 2010 Vancouver Games and the 2012 London Games.
The Olympics inspire a multitude of feelings and generate a healthy amount of debate. One thing for certain is that a tremendous amount of preparation is required by the hosting city and the effort of a variety of people are required to pull it all together.
An interesting article posted on timesonline looks at the impact of the Olympic Games on the legal profession. The article boldly declares that lawyers are as much a part of the sporting community as athletes. It goes on to describe how the Olympics generate a boom in legal work as a result of preventing ambush marketing and unauthorized broadcasts as well as both defending and prosecuting anti-doping cases.
For those interested in learning more about international sports law, a great international law blog Opinio Juris featured some excellent expert commentators during the Beijing Games. A compelling post discussed the growing prominence of athletes representing countries that they are not citizens of. The author contrasts a competitor’s identity vs. a national identity and explains the requirements under the Olympics Charter for an athlete to compete for a nation.
Congratulations to all the athletes and let’s get ready for 2010!
Enjoy your weekend,

Diane Vieira

18 Aug

Day Eleven of the Olympics and Counting

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Today, if I have my count right, is day eleven of the Olympics. For certain, the Olympics stimulate debate on a spectrum of important social, political, economic and, of course, athletic issues of our time. I do not intend to touch upon those debates. Over the past ten days of the Olympics, however, incredible stories of the athletes have arisen, and will no doubt continue to arise. Some, like Michael Phelps’ eight gold medals, involve incredible success, almost beyond one’s imagination, while others involve success on a more personal level or, as the saying goes, the agony of defeat. These stories, from whatever viewpoint, are quite remarkable and have no doubt involved the setting of objectives, planning and dedication and commitment to the goal.

While perhaps obvious, it continues to strike me as to the extent that these athletes live in the moment or for the day. So much rises and falls for them with one or in some cases several performances. What onlookers of the Olympics take away from the Olympics is no doubt personal but perhaps the notion of setting objectives, striving to obtain them while living for the day is the most universal.

What do these stories actually have to do with Estates? From a legal standpoint, nothing. However, perhaps the above notion may focus us to consider our own legacy and the steps that have been taken, or should be taken now, to ensure that those that benefit from that legacy are the intended ones.

Keep watching.


23 Jul

The Horror: Sean Connery’s Son Required to Get a Job

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Imagine that one day, you were told you had to get a job.  You were told to go make a living, and that hard work was good.  Not only that, you would have to work FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. 

According to virtually every news source in the British Isles, that’s exactly what Sir Sean Connery is being accused of doing to his only son, Jason.  This shocking revelation appears to have been exposed by a former wife of the former 007 star, Diane Cilento.  The root cause may be Sean Connery’s experience with really, really hard work reportedly as a barrow-pusher in Edinburgh’s industrial sector (back when Edinburgh had an industrial sector), as a milkman, and other tough jobs prior to superstardom.  Sean Connery reportedly wanted Jason to develop a work ethic. 

Sean Connery’s fortune is estimated at 85,000,000 pounds – about USD$170,000,000 – and his son Jason allegedly won’t see any of it, according to Cilento, because Sean Connery has left him out of his Will.  Apparently, after a tough go of it in the 1980’s, Jason works and even earns a successful living as an actor and film director in his own right. 

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this story is that a hugely wealthy and successful father forcing his son to get a job is a newsworthy story.         

Have a great day at work,

Chris Graham



21 Jul

A Bronx Story: $20 million lost by public administrators

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Speaking of risky U.S. investments…

Public administrators of estate monies appear to have lost around $20,000,000.  The place?  The Bronx, NY.  When a New York resident dies intestate (without a will), his or her assets are managed by these public administrators until there is a court-approved settlement.  This is roughly the equivalent of monies paid into Court in Ontario.  The investments are even overseen by a judge.  

Similar to Ontario, the monies ought to be invested in low-risk investments like Treasury bills.  But apparently that principle was ignored by the public administrators, who instead bought auction-rate securities, the market for which collapsed in February.   

The lesson?  First, nothing happens on a small scale in New York, not even in the Bronx.  Second, a "risky" investment means that one might lose money.  A tough concept to grasp?  Third, someone else always gets paid: see page 2 of the article.  Where there are investments to be made, there are fees to be paid. 

Luckily for the beneficiaries, it appears that ultimately the city (ie, the taxpayers) will pay, not the various estates’ beneficiaries. 

Thanks for reading,

Chris Graham

16 Jul

Blackberries: Hazardous to your Health?

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Blackberries and iPhones have been in the news a lot lately. These communication devices seem to have become irreplaceable for many Canadians and their frequent use is having an impact on the work place.


This past Monday, the Globe & Mail carried a story about the potential health impacts of the chronic use of these devices. Problems such as Blackberry Belly, caused by slouching when you hunch over to read your screen, and Blackberry Thumb, caused from excessive texting, were just two of the many afflictions cited by a physiotherapist and researchers quoted in the article. Aside from these physical ailments, frequent Blackberry use may also contribute to anxiety.


The use of Blackberries after regular work hours also has the potential of becoming a pertinent employment issue with employees seeking compensation for their use outside office hours. Late last month, the Globe & Mail carried a story about the writers’ union for ABC News, the Writers Guild of America. The Guild was challenging a long standing contract waiver that prevented employees from collecting overtime pay for work that was be done after work hours and facilitated via communication devices such as Blackberries.


It will be interesting to see if the changing technology will have a long term impact on employee’s work environments, or if this is much ado about nothing.


Have a nice day,

Diane Vieira

11 Jul


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Looking out of our office window on such a beautiful summer day, my mind drifted from blogging to golfing. I then struggled to make a connection between the world of trusts and estates, and thoughts of golfing.

The one thing that immediately came to mind was the comment of Rodney Dangerfield’s character Al Czervic from the movie “Caddyshack” that “Golf courses and cemeteries are the biggest waste of prime real estate in America.”

Looking a little deeper on the internet, I found a wealth of golf-related murder mysteries!  Yahoo hosts a group for golf mystery collectors. The Waterboro Public Library has compiled a list of well over 100 golf murder mysteries (I stopped counting at 100). 

Titles include “Death is a Two-Stroke Penalty”, “Deadly Divots”, “Death Under Par”, “Rotten Lies”, “Fairway to Heaven”, “Putt to Death”, “Par for the Corpse” and “Six Strokes Under”. There appears to be no limit to the punning.

Whether you’re reading, or golfing, or both, have a great summer!

Thank you for reading.

Paul Trudelle

04 Jul

Will the Great Wealth Transfer Be Not So Great?

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Estate practitioners are fond of discussing the “unprecedented transfer of wealth” that is set to occur over the next few decades.  The idea is that as the asset-rich baby boomers age and pass away, the number of estates being distributed (and the size of the estates) will be at a level never before seen. 

However, as an interesting article in the New York Times points out, people expecting a windfall when mom or dad die might be in for a surprise.  In his article, 8 Reasons You Should Not Expect an Inheritance, Ron Leiber points out that while the aging population might be wealthier than in generations past, people are also living longer and have higher expenses. 

Some of the issues that Mr. Leiber raises in his articles are more relevant to U.S. residents, but most have more general application; here are some of them:

1.       People are living longer.  In 2005, the life expectancy more males who reached the age of 65 was 82 while for females it was 87;

2.      Work-place pensions are becoming less common, meaning that people are more reliant on the financial markets (and their ups and downs) to generate retirement savings;

3.       The skyrocketing costs of health care will increasingly be passed to the consumer; and

4.       Divorce is on the rise, meaning that the aging retirees might be sole income, not dual income, and, thus, have greater expenses (and less wealth to pass on).

While the fact remains that the aging boomers have greater wealth than ever before, it’s worthwhile for those engaged in both planning and litigation to keep in mind the outside forces that will affect the size of an estate.

Have a great weekend,

Megan F. Connolly

03 Jul

Is a Billionaire’s Estate Going to the Dogs?

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Leona Helmsley, the deceased billionaire hotelier who, in her will, left her dog Trouble a $12 million trust, is back in the news.  

Also in her will, Ms. Helmsley directed that the bulk of her estate (estimated to be worth somewhere between $5 billion – $8 billion) be put into a charitable trust.  However, until now little has been revealed about who the beneficiaries of the trust were.  

As it turns out, she attached to her will a memorandum containing a “mission statement” setting out she wished the funds left to the charitable trust to be distributed.  In it, she specified that she wanted the funds to be used for the care and welfare of dogs (in an earlier version of the memorandum she had directed that the poor and indigent also be beneficiaries of the trust but apparently later changed her mind and decided that the funds should just be used to the benefit of dogs.)  

People who have seen the memorandum have questioned whether it would have much legal effect. Apparently, the estate trustees are provided with some discretion as to whom the funds should be distributed.  In addition, the memorandum is drafted as an expression of wishes rather than as a testamentary document.  Nevertheless, it does speak to what the testator’s intent is and, as such, likely cannot be completely ignored.  

In any event, Ms. Helmsley’s estate trustees have tried to avoid publicizing the exact contents of the memorandum.  They might have reason to be concerned – after the $12 million trust left to Trouble was revealed, the poor dog received death threats!

Thanks for reading,

Megan F. Connolly



30 Jun

Métis Group Weighs in on Burial Dispute

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In May, I wrote a blog about a battle between the wife of a dead RCMP officer and his mother over the burial place of his remains.  The wife learned about a policy allowing an officer to be buried in the RCMP national cemetery and applied to the Director of Vital Statistics for permission to move the deceased’s body from its current place of burial (near his hometown) to the RCMP national cemetery in Saskatchewan.

The deceased’s mother objected to this and litigation ensued.  In May, the Alberta Court of Appeal held that the wife could indeed move the body if she chose.  The deceased’s mother has since indicated she intends to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Last week, CBC News reported that the Métis National Council has now become involved (the deceased was of Métis descent). 

In an open letter to the deceased’s wife appearing in newspapers in Calgary and Regina, the president of the council implored to her not to move the body, writing “I hope you will reconsider your decision to have your husband disinterred and taken away from his people and his family…His resting place is a place of honour, an enduring testament to his selfless sacrifice and an eternal memorial to his cherished place in the hearts of his family and the Métis Nation."

It is not clear whether an application seeking leave to appeal the decision has been made yet and, if it is, whether it will be granted.  If this case does end up before the Supreme Court I would not be surprised to see the Métis National Council seek leave to intervene.

Have a great day!

Megan F. Connolly

23 Jun

Summer Days

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Ah, summer is upon us, and not a moment too soon. After what seemed like the longest Spring I can remember, we finally had our first genuine summer weekend.

School’s one week from being OVER, and kids are so eager they can taste the two full months of freedom headed their way.  Camps, holidays, lazy weekends at the lake beckon.

With the European Soccer (sorry, Futbol) Championships in full force, Wimbledon and the US Open in tennis and the Beijing Olympics slated for later, not a bad time to be a sports fan either.

So, here’s to a great summer all around, for kids, families, and yes, even the lawyers.  Enjoy.

And never fear, things will get plenty serious in the fall, with Canadian and US elections either certain or very likely indeed.

Thanks for reading.

Sean Graham


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