Tag: administration of estates
One of the primary duties of an Estate Trustee is to ascertain the assets of the estate. Sometimes, at the time of death, property of another person may be left at the deceased’s place of residence or otherwise in their possession. This property, unsurprisingly, can be assumed to be the deceased’s. However, if property entitlement is in dispute, when and how does a claimant to property go about inspecting the property?
Rule 32.01(1) of the Rules of Civil Procedure provides:
The court may make an order for the inspection of real or personal property where it appears to be necessary for the proper determination of an issue in a proceeding.
In Catto v Catto, 2016 ONSC 3025, the Court considered this Rule in the context of an application seeking the opinion, advice and direction of the Court relating to various issues in the administration of an estate.
The Deceased had died suddenly and without a will. He and his brother had been collecting hockey cards for over twenty years. His brother claimed to have left his part of the collection with the Deceased when he ran out of storage room in his own home. A list indicating the ownership of the cards went missing when the cards were left in the possession of the Deceased. The Deceased’s wife, Ms. McKay, knew the Deceased collected hockey cards but did not know that the cards may belong to anyone other than her late husband. Affidavits were filed detailing the storage of all the collected cards at the Deceased house. Evidence was also provided supporting the two brother’s long history of collecting hockey cards together. The Court found the Deceased’s brother was entitled to inspect the cards at a time and location mutually agreeable to the parties. It also found that if the list could not be located, the parties could randomly divide the cards as they might agree or the Court would make a determination.
This case also raises a worthwhile point to remember. It might seem that an obvious solution would have been to allow the Deceased’s brother to simply take what he thought was his. In the facts of this case, Ms. McKay was the sole beneficiary of the Estate, and presumably, if there were no creditors or dependants, she could have easily done so without attracting liability. However, had there been concerns with respect to creditors, beneficiaries, or dependents, as estate trustee, she could have potentially incurred liability for making a distribution.
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The appointment of an estate trustee, although an honourable duty, carries with it onerous obligations and responsibilities. Often, family executors are not familiar with the administration process and require some sort of assistance in administering the estate. Interestingly, I came across a new service, Easy Estate Closure, which seeks to connect family executors with estate experts to help finalize the administration of the estate.
According to its website, Easy Estate Closure provides a streamlined and efficient service that suits the specific needs of an executor. The procedure is as follows:
- The executor contacts Easy Estate Closure to explain their estate needs/challenges, and a free assessment is provided on what the executor is required to do.
- If the executor decides that they need help to complete those requirements, Easy Estate Closure then reaches out to their database of estate experts to see who is available to complete the tasks and at what price.
- Easy Estate Closure then presents the executor with a list of experts who have agreed to assist, along with price quotes, hourly rates, past client feedback ratings, and other information as needed (for example, languages spoken, meeting location and time preferences).
- The executor then chooses which expert they want to connect with, and Easy Estate Closure facilitates those introductions and the direct relationship between the executor and expert commences.
- Easy Estate Closure maintains communication with the executors throughout the process in order to receive feedback on the expert with whom they are working.
- Once the expert completes the work, the executor pays them directly according to the initially presented quote rates.
- Easy Estate Closure does not charge a fee to the executor.
It is always interesting to follow the technological innovation in the estates community.
The 2015 movie, Woman in Gold, brought to the mainstream the Nazi appropriation of art throughout Europe and Russia, and the various art Restitution Board proceedings to repatriate art to their proper owner or heir. For devotees of art, history, and estates, restitution of art continues to appear in the mainstream media providing emotional stories behind beautiful pieces of art, and the steps taken by estate representatives to recover property.
In 2008, the heirs of Saemy Rosenbaum and Isaak Rosenberg (the “Estate“) submitted a request for the return of the 1526 Hans Wertinger painting titled Bildnis Pfalzgraf Johann III (Portrait of ElectorPalantine Johan III).
Apparently, the Nazi Government required the owners, who were art dealers in Frankfurt, to sell the painting in 1936, and place the proceeds of sale into a Nazi Government bank account. The painting ended up in the hands of an art collector in 1948, who bequeathed it to a museum in Stuttgart, Germany.
The claim for restitution appears to be based on the premise that, although the painting was sold, the owners were not free to make arms-lengths transactions, nor to use the proceeds freely. An interesting read in the Economist, discusses the process of claiming looted artwork, alleging that it is often opaque, ad-hoc, expensive, and uncertain, given the fact that ownership records may be patchy.
Nonetheless, researchers at the museum have now been able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Portrait of ElectorPalantine Johan III was in fact stolen from the original owners. Therefore, the museum has since returned the looted artwork to the Estate.