Tag: and

12 Apr

The Free and Cued Selective Reminding Test

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We repeatedly hear about the grim details behind Alzheimer’s disease. In a previous blog titled “The Grim Toll of Alzheimer’s, I touched on a reported study called The Rising Tide: The Impact of Dementia in Canadian Society.   This study has cited that as our population continues to age, the number of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease is expected to double to 1.25 million within 30 years. Again, another grim statistic.

Today, I blog on another Alzheimer’s study, which fortunately does not have such grim details. In a recent article, Lesley Ciarula Taylor states that specialists in Rochester, Minnesota have discovered “a cheap and easy memory test can predict who will develop Alzheimer’s disease with almost perfect accuracy.” The Free and Cued Selective Reminding Test is used to distinguish normal aging memory loss from a degenerative brain disease. 

Taylor states, “the cost is very low, much lower than an MRI. The hope is to be able to identify the disease as quickly as possible.”

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s. Diagnosing the likelihood of being vulnerable may not necessarily lead to a cure, but at least specialists in this area can now ask new questions that potentially could lead to different angles on handling this disease.

Thank you for reading,

Rick Bickhram-Click here for more information on Rick Bickhram


16 Mar

Another Family War

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As I have been practising in the area of estate litigation for a few years, I occasionally think that I have seen it all; that every recurring story I hear about a family war tends to lose its originality. Not true. Take for instance a recent story that was posted online in the Telegraph, involving a U.S. estate fight.

Tasha Tudor was from New England and has been described as the “unconventional Martha Stewart.” Ms. Tudor died at the age of 92 following complications from a stroke.  The basis of Ms. Tudor’s estate dispute centers on her decision to leave almost her entire estate to her eldest son, virtually cutting out her three other children. 

The oldest son argues that his late mother intended to cut out his three siblings from her estate because they were estranged from her. One of the siblings, a U.S. Air Force lawyer, who claims he was not estranged from his late mother, has asserted that the 2001 Will is invalid on the basis that his older brother unduly influenced his late mother.

The dispute has gotten so acrimonious between the siblings that they could not even agree what to do with their mother’s ashes. On motion to the Court, it was ordered that Ms. Tudor’s ashes be divided in half, with one-half to be given to the oldest son and the other half to his siblings. Lawyers are now fighting over who is responsible for a snow plough bill!

It is reported that some of the last words by Ms. Tudor were “Oh, will there ever be a cat and dogfight when I die. But I don’t care. I won’t be here to see it.” 

It is often difficult to comprehend the harsh realities of litigation until you step into the shoes of one of the parties. I wonder if Ms. Tudor were alive to witness the severity of this dispute whether she would take back those words?

Thank you for reading

Rick Bickhram

Rick Bickhram – Click here for more information on Rick Bickhram.

16 Feb

Unworthy to Inherit

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As most of us return to our offices from a long weekend, I would like to share with you an interesting case, which I read over the weekend and deals with an Application to declare a family member unworthy to inherit. S.R. (Succession de), 2008 QCCS 4015, is a decision released by the Quebec Superior Court.

In, S.R. (Succession de), the Deceased was survived by his spouse and four children.    The Deceased was a savvy businessman who, during his lifetime, was quite successful. In 1995, the Deceased asked a notary to prepare a Will. A draft Will was sent to the Deceased for his review but it appears that he never executed the Will. In 2000, the Deceased was diagnosed with cancer and subsequently died in 2003.

After the Deceased died, the children looked for their father’s Will in the home and at the Deceased’s office with no success. We are given to understand that all of the children, searched, under the bed, every closet, every brief case belonging to the Deceased, but were unable to recover a Will.   

One of the daughters prepared a proposal requesting the siblings to acknowledge that the Deceased promised to transfer a certain property to her. This would have the effect of increasing her entitlement under the Deceased’s estate. Her siblings refused to sign the acknowledgement, which led to the ensuing dispute. The disgruntled daughter, subsequently informed everyone that she had in fact, located a Will of the Deceased in an old briefcase, which was allegedly in the bedroom closet of the Deceased’s residence.

The discovered Will was similar to the draft Will prepared earlier, except that it included two additional provisions which favoured the disgruntled daughter, in the amount of $2.4 million dollars and was apparently executed by two witnesses from New York. 

The disgruntled daughter tried to probate this Will, but it was contested by her siblings and it was ultimately ruled that the Will could not be probated by the Honourable Justice Gagnon. Justice Gagnon held that there were all the sorts of question marks surrounding the validity and execution of the Will. 

After the Application for probate was refused, the disgruntled daughter then produced a document which was a blank cheque allegedly signed by the Deceased and which purported to give the disgruntled daughter her share in a building that she coveted and various other monies for her home. The siblings refused to admit the authenticity of the blank cheque and commenced proceedings against the disgruntled daughter to have her declared unworthy to inherit under the Deceased’s estate. 

Under the section 621 of the Civil Code of Quebec, it states that a person “may be declared unworthy of inheriting where a person is guilty of cruelty towards the deceased, and where the person has concealed, altered or destroyed in bad faith the Will of the deceased, or a person who has hindered the testator in the writing, amending or revoking of their Will.” 

In relying on this provision, the children advocated that the disgruntled should be precluded from inheriting because she concealed and altered, in bad faith the alleged Will of the Deceased. 

The court held that the disgruntled daughter had likely altered the Deceased’s Will, had taken the draft prepared by the notary and added some typewritten additions that benefited her to the detriment of her siblings and mother. The court further held that the disgruntled daughter likely had taken the blank cheque from the Deceased’s home and also forged that after his death.

Accordingly, the disgruntled daughter was declared unworthy to inherit and her claims against the estate were dismissed.

An interesting point, in Ontario we do not have any similar case law or legislation that would actually allow someone to commence a proceeding, seeking to have someone else precluded from receiving their entitlement absent criminal activity such as murder.

Have a great day,

Rick Bickhram

Rick Bickhram – Click here for more information on Rick Bickhram.


14 Jan

The Evolution of Reading

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I think it’s fair to say that the Internet has severely disrupted the traditional value chains in regards to how we obtain our media content. The value of content, starting with music, movies, TV shows, news and most recently books are being redefined for the Internet age.

I recently read an article published by the BBC News Magazine entitled “Page-turning Passion”, which details the culture of book reading and particularly how we have obtained and received the content from books. 

In the 1640s, books were more than just a tool to obtain information. It was a “treasured personal possession, and object whose loss would be keenly felt. To their privileged owners they were coveted objects, symbols of conspicuous consumption to be displayed alongside paintings, sculpture and silverware”.

Over time, manuscripts were replaced with printed books. Noticeably, printed books lacked that unique quality that gave each manuscript its touch of art. After all, printed books were simply copies produced on the production line. I am a product of the printed book era and have thoroughly enjoyed reading. I reject the idea that some have asserted indicating that printed books are impersonal volumes. As a reader, we find creative ways to make them ours, by underlining and highlighting in these books. I can dog ear pages if I want to.  I can rip out pages.  I can draw pictures in them

Now we have entered into a new era, the e-book era. If you have not yet heard of the Kindle, it is Amazon’s wireless reading device. The Kindle also has applications for most smart phones, which makes downloading and reading even more convenient and, unlike the 1640s, the Kindle is simply a tool to obtain information. 

Rush, scuttle and hurry seems to be the ear marks of today’s society. As an urban commuter, rarely do we have the time or the space to pull a book out while crammed onto a subway. Now it is as simple as purchasing a book while on my way to the subway and doing all of the reading off of the smart phone while I am on the subway.

There will always be advocates against the growth and importance of technology, but as an urban resident and a commuter, if it weren’t for phone reading, I wouldn’t be reading at all.

Thank you for reading,

Rick Bickhram

Rick Bickhram – Click here for more information on Rick Bickhram.

13 Jan

The Grim Toll of Alzheimer’s

Hull & Hull LLP Capacity, Estate & Trust, Litigation Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

The Toronto Star recently reported on Alzheimer’s disease, stating that “cases of the mind-robbing disease will more than double to 1.25 million within 30 years as baby boomers age”. 

With the numbers pointing upward as the population grays, a recent report by the Alzheimer Society, entitled Rising Tide: The Impact of Dementia on Canadian Society suggests the following steps to help reduce the impact of dementia:

1.                  Prevention programs based on healthy diet and physical activity that can delay the onset of dementia by two years, with a potential cost saving of $219 billion over the 30-year period.

2.                  Enhanced skill-building and support programs for family caregivers, many of whom suffer financial hardship because they must leave jobs to look after a relative with dementia.

3.                  Assigning a case manager to each newly diagnosed dementia patient and their caregivers, which could help the person remain at home longer and lessen the strain on the long-term-care system.

Today, annual funding for Alzheimer’s is approximately $24 million. The Toronto Star reports that if “nothing changes, this sharp increase in the number of people living with dementia will mean that by 2038, the total costs associated with dementia will reach $153 billion a year”. 

We have already seen a substantial influx with respect to Will challenges, particularly because there has been a big question mark about the testator’s capacity. The grim realty is that this will be a continuing problem that Estate Solicitors are going to have to tackle.

Thank you for reading.

Rick Bickhram

Rick Bickhram – Click here for more information on Rick Bickhram.

12 Jan

The 8 Life Stages of Estate Planning

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As we are in the beginning of a new year, a quote from one of my favourite poets, T.S. Eliot, comes to mind:  “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice.”  

I recently came across an article entitled "The 8 Life Stages of Estate Planning", authored by G.M. Filisko.  In his article, Mr. Filisko points out the obvious – during our life we will go through different phases and our estate plans should reflect these changes. Mr. Filisko lists the following stages to consider regardless of the phase one may be currently in:

1.      Young, single and carefree
2.      Single, but committed
3.      We’re Engaged
4.      Just Married
5.      The Joys of Parenting
6.      Divorce (if unfortunately applicable)
7.      The Middle Ages
8.      The Golden Years

Regardless of where one may fall in this spectrum, it is never to late to get started.

Since making New Year’s resolutions seems to be the theme around this time of the year, let’s make a resolution to be more organized this year and spend some time considering our estate plans.

Thank you for reading.

Rick Bickhram

Rick Bickhram – Click here for more information on Rick Bickhram.


31 Dec


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This is our last blog of 2009!

Thank you for reading our blog posts over the past year. We have enjoyed preparing them. We hope that we have been informative.

With the close of 2009, we turn and look to the promises of 2010. While there is no doubt many things are to be considered for the new years, from a family perspective, perhaps this is the year to resolve to consider, or reconsider, whether your family’s legal affairs have been properly planned.

On behalf of everyone at Hull & Hull LLP, I would like to wish you a wonderful new year. We hope that you have a safe, restful holiday. 

Happy New Year.

Rick Bickhram

Rick Bickhram – Click here for more information about Rick Bickhram.


30 Dec

The Importance of Utilizing Social Media

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Without understanding what the term “social media” is, it can sound intimidating to those in our industry who are not computer literate. But what is social media? Wikipedia defines social media as “media which are formed mainly by the public as a group, in a social way, rather than media produced by journalists, editors and media conglomerates." In an article, composed by Gary Edgar of LawPro, he defines social media as anyone looking to engage, connect and network with others online.

Gary Edgar does point out that one thing social media is not, is a fad.   Social Media is fundamentally changing the ways we interact and communicate with others and it will be interesting to see how this form of media continues to evolve. 

Social networks can be used to learn, exchange ideas and collaborate on projects. I have participated in numerous forums where I have learned how to troubleshoot many problems that I may have encountered with my automobile and computer, moreover, I have also learned neat little tips on some home renovations.  Social Media can also be used as a form of marketing. As Gary Edgar points out in his article, 15-20 years ago, the options for self promotion were limited to newspaper ads, the yellow pages, a radio or TV. Now with the concept of social media, our options have multiplied and the costs for self promotion have been drastically reduced.

However, the social media world is not the flawless paradise that we all would like it to be. There have been instances of online imposters, questions as to how much of my real life persona should I share online, how many people are seeing the things I post and who owns the information that is placed online?  These are all very important questions that will become clearer as this form of media continues to evolve.

Until next time,

Rick Bickhram

Rick Bickhram – Click here for more information on Rick Bickhram.


29 Dec


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As our year winds down and we prepare for the New Year, we have much to look forward to as our judicial system has undergone a minor facelift to reflect the changes in our society.  One such change has been the implementation of new legislation, The Apology Act (the “Act”), which came into effect on April 23, 2009.

The Act would permit the communications of expressions of sorrow or regret without worrying that the comments can later be used adversely in a civil court. Under the Act, an apology is defined as:

An expression of sympathy or regret, a statement that a person is sorry or any other words or actions indicating contrition or commiseration, whether or not the words or actions admit fault or liability or imply an admission of fault or liability in connection with the matter to which the words or action relate.

Proponents of the Act, suggest that the new legislation will enhance the dispute resolution process, promote accountability and enhance the affordability and speed of justice by shortening or avoiding litigation. The rationale for the implementation of this Act is similar to the rationale for the changes to the Rules of Civil Procedure, which is to make our system accessible, cost effective and efficient.

I agree with the purpose, the idea behind implementing this act, however I question .. has our society become so litigious that we now require the legislature to protect us from apologizing?

Thank you for reading my blog, until next time, 

Rick Bickhram

Rick Bickhram – Click here for more information on Rick Bickhram.



16 Nov

The 12th Annual Estates and Trusts Summit

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The 12th Annual Estates & Trusts Summit, took place late last week on November 12th and 13th, 2009 in Toronto.  This program, organized by the Law Society of Upper Canada, presented a variety of issues which are of interest to anyone practicing in the Estates and Trusts field.

The summit spanned two days, and dealt with topics running the gamut.  Some of the Topics and Speakers included:

  • Estate Planning in Recessionary Times (Heather Evans)
  • U.S./Canada Cross-Border Planning (Beth Webel & Jim Yager)
  • Family Law and Your Estates Practice – An Update (Daniel S. Melamed, C.S.)
  • Drafting Multiple Wills (Clare A. Sullivan)
  • Estate Administration Issues (Rosanne T. Rocchi)
  • Creating Insurance Trusts to Minimize Probate Tax on Life Insurance (Robin Goodman)
  • The Exercise of Trustee Discretion (Bernadette Dietrich)
  • Practice Management Issues for Estates Practitioners (Louise F. Christofolakos)
  • Constructive Trusts and Quantum Meruit (Elizabeth A. Bozek)
  • The Standard of Care and Will Drafting (Ian M. Hull, C.S)
  • Duelling Powers of Attorney (Jordan M. Atin, C.S.)
  • The Latest Costs Issues (Shael Eisen)
  • Remedies for Non-Compliance with Court Orders (Kimberly Ann Whaley, C.S.)
  • The Top 10 Decisions Released by The Honourable Mr. Justice David Brown (Timothy G. Youdan)
  • Representing the Incapable Person (Marshall Swadron)

For a full list of speakers and topics visit the Law Society of Upper Canada Website.  If you were not able to attend, contact the Law Society of Upper Canada to obtain materials.

Nadia M. Harasymowycz

Nadia M. Harasymowycz – Click here for more information on Nadia Harasymowycz.


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