Category: Power of Attorney
The recent Ontario Court of Appeal decision in Dzelme v Dzelme acts as a helpful reminder that even if an attorney has standing to seek a passing of accounts, the Court may still refuse to grant the passing.
John was named as the attorney for personal care for his father, Ritvers, and sought an accounting of Ritver’s financial affairs from his brother Arnis (Ritvers’ other son) who was the attorney for property. Both John and Arnis agreed that John, given that he was an attorney for personal care, could apply under section 42(4)(1) of the Substitute Decisions Act for a passing of accounts without leave. Nonetheless, the Court of Appeal identified that even if a person has standing to apply for an accounting, it remains the discretion of the Court to order a passing of accounts.
In deciding whether to order the passing, the superior court judge made the following findings of fact: (i) both the father and mother were capable when they executed written instructions to Arnis not to produce any financial information about his affairs to John; (ii) the mother maintained this position in response to John’s motion; (iii) a capacity assessment found that the mother was capable of making her own decisions; (iv) a third brother corroborated Arnis’ evidence that he was abiding by his parent’s wishes; (v) the application judge did not doubt that Arnis was following his mother’s wishes; and, (vi) there was no reason to suspect that Arnis was acting improperly with respect to certain transactions.
On this basis, the Court of Appeal upheld the application judge’s dismissal of John’s request for an order that Arnis pass his accounts of Ritver’s property.
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The city of Toronto was abuzz this past weekend as we kicked off summer 2019 with wall-to-wall sunshine. There were so many wonderful things to celebrate this weekend. For some, celebrations continued over the Toronto Raptor’s historic NBA Championship win. Some were tapping their feet to the beat for the first weekend of Toronto’s Jazz festival. Others, like myself, were flooding the streets to celebrate one of the city’s largest, loudest, and most colourful parades of the year – the Toronto Pride Parade.
Pride festivities provide a great opportunity to come together with others to celebrate and promote the equal rights of all persons regardless of gender or sexual orientation. While there, I reflected on some key considerations for LGBTQ+ individuals to consider in the context of estate planning in Ontario.
1. The value of a will
A will is an invaluable tool to assist people in planning for the future. The Succession Law Reform Act, RSO 1990, c. 26 (“SLRA”) gives individuals the power to dispose of property post-death.
Provided that your will meets the statutory requirements to be valid (which are prescribed in Part I of the SLRA) testators are free to dispose of their property as they wish. This a right regardless of sexual orientation or gender and includes couples that are in common-law relationships and same-sex marriages.
Importantly, the will provides a testator with a level of control over how children are provided for post-death. This is especially important in scenarios where parents rely on assisted reproduction as a method of conceiving a child. Having a will allows a testator to specifically name children and outline how that child is to take under the will. For more information about this, click here.
2. Rules of Intestacy
If you die without leaving a will, your estate will be subject to the rules of intestacy which are governed by Part II of the SLRA. Under these rules, married couples are entitled to take their spouses property absolutely if the deceased is not survived by issue. On July 20, 2005 the Parliament of Canada enacted the Civil Marriage Act, which legalizes same-sex marriage and provides in section 2, that, “Marriage, for civil purposes, is the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others”. This definition replaced the former definition which described marriage as the lawful union between a man and a woman. As a result, same-sex spouses are entitled to take from their spouses estate on an intestacy.
In contrast, common-law relationships do not share this privilege, regardless of whether it is a heterosexual or homosexual common-law relationship.
3. Incapacity During Lifetime
An important consideration for LGBTQ+ individuals is also what would happen in the event that they become incapable of making decisions regarding their health care and property. Although laws vary by jurisdiction, legal and biological family, such as spouses (sometimes including common-law partners), children and parents, will generally be favoured over other persons who may have a close but legally unrecognized, relationship with the incapable person. This could have a negative impact on an individual whose non-accepting family members step into a decision-making role for them.
4. Dependant Support Claim
If you fall under the definition of a “dependant” under Part V of the SLRA, which could apply to same-sex common-law relationships and spouses alike, you may be entitled to make a dependant’s support claim against your partner’s estate.
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It is often said that an Attorney for Property can do anything on behalf of the grantor’s behalf except make a will. This is on account of section 7(2) of the Substitute Decisions Act (the “SDA“), which provides:
“The continuing power of attorney may authorize the person named as attorney to do on the grantor’s behalf anything in respect of property that the grantor could do if capable, except make a will.” [emphasis added]
Although at first glance it would appear that the potential tasks that an Attorney for Property could complete on behalf of a grantor are almost absolute, with the Attorney for Property being able to do anything on behalf of the grantor except sign a new will, in reality the tasks that an Attorney for Property may complete relative to the grantor’s estate planning is more restrictive than this would suggest at first glance. This is because the definition of “will” in the SDA is defined as being the same as that contained in the Succession Law Reform Act (the “SLRA“), with the SLRA in turn defining “will” as including not only typical testamentary documents such as a Last Will and Testament or Codicil, but also “any other testamentary disposition“. As a result, the stipulation that an Attorney for Property can do anything on behalf of the grantor “except make a will” would include not only a restriction on the Attorney for Property’s ability to sign a new Last Will and Testament or Codicil on behalf of the grantor, but also a restriction on the Attorney for Property’s ability to make “any other testamentary disposition” on behalf of the grantor.
It is fairly common for individuals such as spouses to own real property as joint-tenants with the right of survivorship. When one joint-owner dies ownership of the property automatically passes to the surviving joint-owner by right of survivorship, with no portion of the property forming part of the deceased joint-owner’s estate. Although such an ownership structure may make sense when the property is originally purchased, it is not uncommon for circumstances to arise after the property was registered (i.e. a divorce or separation) which may make one of the joint-owners no longer want the property to carry the right of survivorship. Should such circumstances arise, one of the joint-owners will often “sever” title to the property so that the property is now held as tenants-in-common without the right of survivorship, making efforts to attempt to ensure that at least 50% of the property would form part of their estate should they predecease the other joint-owner.
Although severing title to a property is fairly straight forward while the owner is still capable, circumstances could become more complicated should the owner become incapable as questions may emerge regarding whether their Attorney for Property has the authority to sever title to the property on behalf of the grantor, or whether such an action is a “testamentary disposition” and therefor barred by section 7(2) of the SDA.
The issue of whether an Attorney for Property severing title to a property is a “testamentary disposition” was in part dealt with by the Ontario Court of Appeal in Champion v. Guibord, 2007 ONCA 161, where the court states:
“The appellants argue that the severing of the joint tenancies here constituted a change in testamentary designation or disposition and is therefore prohibited by s. 31(1) of the Substitute Decisions Act because it is the making of a will.
While we are inclined to the view that the severance of a joint tenancy is not a testamentary disposition, we need not decide that question in this case. Even if it were, we see no error in the disposition made by the application judge, because of s. 35.1(3)(a) of the Substitute Decisions Act.” [emphasis added]
Although the Court of Appeal does not conclusively settle the issue in Champion v. Guibord, the court appears to strongly suggest that they are of the position that an Attorney for Property severing a joint-tenancy is not a “testamentary disposition” within the confines of the SDA.
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In the recent decision of Fica v Dmytryshyn, 2018 ONSC 2034, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice confirmed that an attorney for property and/or estate trustee has a duty to pass accounts in accordance with the Rules of Civil Procedure.
The facts in Fica feature a family dynamic in which the mother of two sons heavily favoured one over the other. The mother’s favouritism towards her younger son (the “Favoured Son”) was evident throughout his whole life, and manifested in him receiving generous financial support from his mother, for anything and everything that he needed. Her other son (the “Older Son”) appears to have had a fractured relationship with his mother and was somewhat estranged from his family.
In January 2012, the mother appointed her Favoured Son, and the mother’s brother, as her co-attorneys for property and personal care, and as her estate trustees. Both sons and Uncle were beneficiaries under the mother’s will, and entitled to share equally in the residue of the mother’s estate.
In August 2012, the mother became very sick with cancer, at which time the Favoured Son and Uncle began acting under the mother’s power of attorney for property. Even after the Favoured Son and the Uncle began acting in their roles as attorneys for property for the mother, the Favoured Son continued to receive generous financial support from the mother’s assets and, with the knowledge of his mother, continued to use her credit card to support his lifestyle.
After the mother died, the disgruntled Older Son demanded information about alleged misappropriated money and expenses incurred when his younger brother and Uncle were acting as co-attorneys for the mother. However, in what would prove to be a significant error, the Favoured Son and the Uncle declined to provide an accounting upon request. Steps were only taken in this regard by the Favoured Son and the Uncle after the Older Son brought an application to compel and obtained an order to pass attorney/estate accounts.
The Older Son also sought a court order requiring the Favoured Son and the Uncle to reimburse the mother’s estate for the funds that he alleged had been misappropriated by them. In light of the mother’s pattern of behaviour, of being frequently and consistently generous towards her Favoured Son throughout his life, as well as her knowledge that the payment of such expenses continued after the Favoured Son and the Uncle had begun acting as her attorneys for property, the judge dismissed the Older Son’s motion. The judge stated that it was the mother’s prerogative to decide what she wanted to do with her money. The judge concluded that the funds were accounted for and no undue influence was present.
The big takeaway from this decision is with respect to costs. Notwithstanding their success on the merits, the Favoured Son and the Uncle could not recover any of the costs incurred in passing their accounts. The rationale for this decision was that, as co-attorney/co-estate trustee, the Favoured son and the Uncle failed to comply with their obligations pursuant to the Rules of Civil Procedure.
Under the Rules, an estate trustee, attorney or guardian can pass his or her accounts voluntarily on notice to the appropriate parties, or can be compelled by an order of the court under Rule 74.15. Rule 74.15(1) provides that any person who appears to have a financial interest in an estate may move for an order requiring an estate trustee to pass accounts. Furthermore, Section 42(1) of the Substitution Decisions Act provides for the passing of accounts of an attorney or guardian of property.
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In Ontario, we are fortunate to have the ability to execute powers of attorney in respect of our property and our health care. I recently learned that Jersey, in the Channel Islands, has only lately gained the ability to execute a “Lasting Power of Attorney” to record their decisions and intentions in respect of their assets and care. On that note, I thought I would take the opportunity to provide a quick reminder of the importance of executing powers of attorney, and the possible consequences of not doing so.
Powers of attorney in Ontario are governed mainly by the Substitute Decisions Act, 1992, S.O. 1992, c. 30 (the “SDA”). The SDA sets out, among other things, the requirements for powers of attorney, the requisite capacity to grant a power of attorney, and the powers and duties of attorneys. There are two types of powers of attorney: powers of attorney for personal care (dealing with your health, medical care, and other matters related to your well-being) and powers of attorney for property (dealing with your property and financial matters). Generally, powers of attorney will come into play if you become incapable of managing your property or personal care, respectively, but it is also possible to grant a power of attorney for property that is effective immediately (that is, not conditional upon later incapacity).
What Happens if I Don’t Execute Powers of Attorney?
If you do not execute powers of attorney, and you never lose capacity, you may never realize how important they are. However, as we have blogged about previously, as our population begins to live longer, there has been an increase in dementia and other aging-related conditions associated with cognitive decline, meaning that the use and activation of powers of attorney is increasing.
Taking the step of executing powers of attorney means that you have the chance to make your own decision regarding who will handle your affairs in the event that you are no longer capable. If you become incapable, and have not named an attorney for property or personal care, it is open (and may become necessary, depending on your circumstances) for an individual to bring an application seeking to be appointed as your guardian for property or personal care, thus allowing them to act as your substitute decision-maker. The application process requires that notice be given to certain people (including certain family members), and if someone disagrees with the appointment of the proposed guardian, they may contest the guardianship—but the key detail to remember is that the ability to make the decision is taken away from you.
A guardianship application can also be brought if a person has executed a power of attorney, but the existence of a power of attorney will be an important factor for the court’s consideration: pursuant to the SDA, if the court is satisfied that there is an alternative course of action that is less restrictive of the person’s decision-making rights, the court shall not appoint a guardian.
Naming someone to act on your behalf with respect to your property and personal care is a big decision. It is almost certain that you are in the best position to make a determination as to who you want acting for you in this regard. We should all take the opportunity to exercise our own decision-making rights, to choose the person that we want to play the important role of attorney, and not leave it up to others to make this decision for us.
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The deceased left a will that divided his estate amongst his three children. The deceased also left the following note:
“Nov 3, 2014
The way I interpret any existing Will is Healy Lake is in 3 names Ken Ludlow Bob Ludlow Kathy Clubbe So on my demise they become the owners in joint tenancy & Susan is left out of Healy Lake property. However Susan shares any Cash available with Bob and Kathy on a one third basis. This should be changed so she gets cash up to the current value of Healy Lake Property, before the one third sharing should happen. Kenneth Robert Ludlow (wrote by hand) KRL
Must see Terry Fraser about his change KRL”
Was the note a codicil? The question was answered in the decision of Pattillo J. in Ludlow v. Clubbe, 2019 ONSC 941.
As a bit of background, the deceased, Ken Ludlow, had 4 children: Bob Ludlow, Kathy Clubbe and Susan Ludlow . He was estranged from the fourth child. At one point, the deceased had transferred his cottage to himself and his children Bob and Kathy. Susan was not but on title as she lived in B.C. and would not be able to enjoy the cottage. He later wanted to put the cottage in the names of himself and 3 of his children, including Susan. However, his son Bob did not agree to such a transfer.
The deceased discussed options with his lawyer (the “Terry Fraser” referred to in the note). One option discussed was to redo the deceased’s will, so as to provide for Susan, the child that was not on title to the cottage, with an equalizing bequest of cash.
The son argued that the note was not a testamentary document, but rather, simply the “musings” of the deceased with respect to potential changes to his will.
Justice Pattillo disagreed. He observed that “A holographic paper is not testamentary unless it contains a deliberate or fixed and final expression of intention as to disposal of property on death. Further, the onus is on the moving party to show, by the contents of the paper or by extrinsic evidence that the paper is of that character and nature: Bennett v. Toronto General Trusts Corp., 1958 CanLII 49 (SCC),  S.C.R. 392 at para. 5.”
He went on to find that the note clearly established a testamentary intention on behalf of the deceased. Further, the note “has a formal manner to it” which supported the conclusion that the deceased intended it to be of a testamentary nature. Justice Pattillo referred the manner in which the note was signed (see extract of note, above). Further, the note was put in an envelope and was found amongst the deceased’s papers. “By formalizing it like he did and putting it in an envelope, I am satisfied that Mr. Ludlow considered that he had created a formal document which he intended to finally have dealt with resolving Susan’s earlier exclusion from the ownership of the Cottage.”
Interestingly, Justice Pattillo noted that the deceased’s handwritten note was intended to equalize the gifting by the deceased. However, the note actually provided for a greater benefit for Susan, the daughter who was not on title. It gave her a cash bequest equal to the full value of the cottage. As it turned out, this was not an issue as the cash value of the estate was roughly equal to 1/3 of the value of the cottage.
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It is well established that in order for a will to be valid in Ontario, strict compliance with the process of execution must be followed. For example, a formal will with only one witness will not be valid.
However, this is not necessarily the case with a power of attorney. A power of attorney can be declared valid by court even if the formal requirements of execution are not followed.
Section. 10(4) of the Substitute Decisions Act provides that:
A continuing power of attorney that does not comply with subsections (1) and (2) is not effective, but the court may, on any person’s application, declare the continuing power of attorney to be effective if the court is satisfied that it is in the interests of the grantor or his or her dependants to do so.
(Subsection (1) provide that a continuing power of attorney shall be executed in the presence of two witnesses, each of whom shall sign the power of attorney as witness. Subsection (2) itemizes who may NOT be witnesses.)
Thus, if a power of attorney only has one witness, or is witnessed by a prohibited witness, the court may still declare that it is effective.
Another basis for finding a power of attorney valid even if the Ontario requirements for execution are not strictly complied with is under s. 85 of the Substitute Decisions Act. This section provides that a continuing power of attorney for property or a power of attorney for personal care is valid if at that time of its execution it complied with the internal law of the place where the power of attorney was executed, or where the grantor was domiciled or where the grantor then had his or her habitual residence.
Thus, even if the requirements of due execution are not complied with, all may not be lost.
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Abraham Harold Maslow ( April 1, 1908 – June 8, 1970) was a psychologist best known for creating Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” theory on fulfilling human needs in priority, culminating in self-actualization. But, he is also known for the “Law of the Instrument” or the over-reliance on the familiar. He is quoted as saying, “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” (The Psychology of Science 1966).
When thinking of a Power of Attorney, the temptation for an estate lawyer may be to first think of the Substitute Decisions Act. However, there are times when the Powers of Attorney Act might be more appropriate for part of an estate plan or administration. For example, dealing with a beneficiary resident in a foreign jurisdiction can be made much more manageable with a Power of Attorney. This type of Power of Attorney does not, however, qualify as a Continuing Power of Attorney.
Another consideration is the differences in the form and wording of the Power of Attorney and the formalities of execution. As noted on page 8 of Kimberly Whaley’s “Powers of Attorney” (2016) in a chapter by Andrea McEwan:
“The Powers of Attorney Act does not impose any formal requirements for the power of attorney document. This is in contrast to the Substitute Decisions Act which is formalistic, with a prescribed form, and validity and execution requirements.”
The Continuing Power of Attorney has strict requirements for two independent witness signatures, whereas the Power of Attorney Act does not state any witness requirements or formalities of signing. Consideration should therefore be given to those occasions when you could rely on the Powers of Attorney Act instead of the Substitute Decisions Act.
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In 1934, Fred Coots co-wrote “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” with lyricist Haven Gillespie. The song went on to be one of the highest money-making songs of all time (so far). It has been performed by over 200 artists, including, most notably, Bruce Springsteen. The song is the basis for the 1970’s classic Christmas special of the same name.
Fred Coots died on April 8, 1985. Haven Gillespie died in 1975.
In 2015, after an eight year battle, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that the music rights should revert to the heirs of the Coots estate. They were previously sold to a musical publishing company. However, under U.S. copyright laws, songwriters have the right to terminate publishing contracts in certain circumstances. The Court of Appeal found that Coots had effectively given notice of the termination of the copyright, and that the copyright therefore would revert to the Coots heirs in 2016.
A similar lawsuit was commenced by the Gillespie family in 2017. The family sued the music publisher Memory Lane Music for royalties claimed to be owing to the Gillespie estate.
In the recent decision of Charles v. Charles Estate, 2018 ONSC 7327, the court discussed the interplay between a claim for interim support, and claims for equalization.
There, the Applicant was the deceased’s spouse of 22 years. There was some evidence that the Applicant and the deceased may have been separated prior to the deceased’s death.
Fifteen days before the deceased died, the deceased severed the joint tenancy on the matrimonial home and other properties, transferred certain properties to his son, liquidated various RRSPs, and drew money on a line of credit secured by the matrimonial home. He also changed his will to significantly reduce the bequests to the Applicant.
The Applicant commenced proceedings for an equalization under the Family Law Act, and to set aside various transactions entered into by the deceased just prior to his death. She also commenced a claim for dependant support.
In the court decision, the court addressed the Applicant’s claim for interim support.
In deciding whether to award interim support, the court considered whether the Applicant was in need of and entitled to support. Relying on the decision of Perkovic v. Marion Estate, 2008 CanLII 52315, the court stated that the test was:
- whether the claimant falls within a “qualifying relationship” under the Succession Law Reform Act;
- whether the deceased was providing support or was under a legal obligation to provide support immediately before his death;
- whether the deceased did not make adequate provision for the claimant’s support.
The burden is on the Applicant to satisfy each of the three elements necessary to obtain an order for interim support on an arguable or prima facie basis.
In Charles, the court found that the Applicant was not in need of support. She earned more income than the deceased, and was the primary provider for the household. There was no evidence that the economic circumstances of the Applicant had worsened to any significant extent since the date of death.
The court did, however, order that the estate pay the interest on the line of credit incurred by the deceased.
In concluding, the court stated that the Applicant’s claim for interim support was “conflated with her property based claims”. Those claims would continue. However, they did not entitle the Applicant to claim interim support. The court did not comment on the merits of such claims.
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