Category: News & Events

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

09 Jun

OBA Trusts and Estates Section Year End Dinner

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The Ontario Bar Association (OBA), Trusts and Estates Section, year end dinner was held on May 27, 2007 at the Gardiner Museum in Toronto. 

Jordan Atin, the Chair of the Section for the past year, brought the past year to a close and the election of the OBA, Trusts and Estates Section Executive for the 2007/2008 year, was confirmed. 

The Section also paid tribute to this year’s recipient of the Award for Excellence in Trusts and Estates, Barry Corbin.

The Award for Excellence was created to recognize exceptional contributions and achievements by members of the OBA to the area of trusts and estates. The criteria for the award is demonstrated leadership in the trusts and estates bar through knowledge, experience, skill, commitment, passion and strength of character, plus all or some of the following:

·         academic excellence through teaching at the Bar Admission Course, lecturing at a law school, participating in Continuing Legal Education and/or academic writing;

·         participation in the OBA Trusts and Estates Section Executive or the Law Society of Upper Canada on wills, trusts and estate matters; and

·         contribution to the development of wills, trusts and estate law.

In addition to the Award for Excellence, Archie Rabinowitz was presented with the Widdifield Award and Corina Weigl with the Hoffstein Book Prize.

Congrats to Barry, Archie and Corina.  The venue, dinner (and particularly the Cornish Hen) and evening were all quite enjoyable.


Thanks for reading.



29 May

Law Society Establishes New Client Identification and Verification Requirements

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Recently, convocation at the Law Society of Upper Canada approved an amendment to By-Law 7.1 [Operational Obligations and Responsibilities] that has the effect of establishing stricter guidelines with respect to client identification and verification. 


A copy of the notice to the legal profession describing the changes can be found here and applies to both lawyers and paralegals.   


Under the amendment, which is effective October 31, 2008, a lawyer who is retained must obtain certain information from the client, including name, address, telephone number, and occupation.  If the client is an organization, the information the lawyer must obtain includes the client’s business identification number, general type of business, place of incorporation, and identity of the organization’s instructing officers.


Where a lawyer receives, pays, or transfers funds on behalf of a client, certain verification rules will be triggered.  Specifically, the lawyer must take “reasonable steps” to verify the client’s identity by obtaining independent documentation, such as a driver’s license, passport or birth certificate (or, in the case of an organization, a partnership agreement or articles of incorporation. 


For most practitioners, this amendment likely codifies what they already do.  In any event, it’s worthwhile to have a look and make sure that your practice policies conform to the guidelines in the new amendment.


Have a great day!

Megan F. Connolly

27 May

Reminder About our June 4 Breakfast Seminar!

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Just a reminder that our next breakfast series seminar is being held on June 4, 2008.  It is being held at the Ontario Bar Association at 20 Toronto Street. 

There will be presentations on the following topics:

  • "Recent Case Law Developments that Impact an Estate Solicitor’s Practice" – by Ian M. Hull
  • "Evidence of Intention and What to Watch for as the Drafting Solicitor: Key Issues and Update" – by A. Sean Graham
  • "The Challenge of Exercising an Estate’s Controlling Interest in a Private Corporation"  – by David M. Smith

The breakfast seminars are always fun and informative and I would definitely encourage you to attend.  If you haven’t already signed up and would like to, please contact Diane Labao, who can be reached at 416.369.1516 or  If you have signed up already, we look forward to seeing you there.


If you are interested in obtaining copies of papers that have previously been presented, they are available here.  In addition, we also offer audio CDs of our presentations. 

Have a great day,

Megan F. Connolly


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