Tag: Ask your Lawyer

27 May

Summary Judgment Awarded Where Testator Obtained Capacity Assessment

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I recently read an Ontario decision involving a will challenge and the court granted summary judgment to the estate trustee on the issue that the Testator had the requisite testamentary capacity to execute her Last Will and Testament. 

In Quinlan v. Caron, the Deceased executed her Last Will and Testament on May 18, 2007 (the “Will”) and she subsequently died on September 7, 2008. Two days before executing the Will, the Deceased underwent a capacity assessment that was recorded on video. The doctor who conducted the capacity assessment concluded that the Deceased had the requisite capacity to create a new Will.


The daughter of the Deceased commenced a Will Challenge alleging that the Deceased lacked the mental capacity to execute the Will and undue influence. The Estate Trustee is the son of the Deceased and brought a motion for summary judgment against his sister, arguing that there were no genuine issues requiring a trial as his sister’s claim was not supported by any evidence.


The Honourable Justice Tuck put a lot of weight on the capacity assessment and granted summary judgment to the Estate Trustee on the issue of the Deceased’s capacity; however Justice Tuck dismissed the Estate Trustee’s motion for summary judgment on the issue of undue influence. In the decision, Justice Tuck held that “matters of credibility requiring resolution on a case of conflicting evidence ought to go to trial” and he rationalized that there was conflicting evidence in this case, which could suggest that the Deceased was unduly influenced.


Thank you for reading and have a great weekend,



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

26 May

Die Broke or Leave a Legacy?

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As I was reading the Financial Post, I came across an interesting article entitled, What Will You Do With Your Estate? In this article, Jonathan Chevreau explains that there are two schools of thought when a parent is deciding how to plan their estate.


On the one hand, some parents believe in transferring the wealth that they have accumulated during their lifetime to their children. On the other hand, some parents believe in “dying broke”. Although it sounds harsh, parents from the second school of thought, often follow the belief that their “kids should stand on their own feet.”


Most of us will fall in between the two extremes; however in his article, Mr. Chevreau reviews the strategies associated with both schools of thought. 


Parents who wish to maximize their estate often don’t like to leave their kids with any debts. Parents from this camp are more likely to “Commute the value of their death benefit pensions in order to maximize RRSP assets … wipe out any lien’s on their residence … give an inter-vivos gift to their children and pre-pay their funeral.”


In the other camp, parents leaning towards the “die broke” philosophy often try to maximize their assets during their lifetime by using three main techniques: pensions, annuities and reverse mortgages. The nature of all three is to maximize income for the parent and their spouse during their lifetime, while leaving little or nothing for their children.

Wherever along the spectrum you fall, it bears discussing your estate plan with your spouse, kids and a good financial planner or estate planning expert.

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

25 May

Passing Over an Executor

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In a recent decision out of the Supreme Court of B.C., Re Thomasson Estate, the Honourable Justice Gerow considered the circumstances where the court may pass over an executor, on an application by a co-executor/beneficiary.

The two Deceased (collectively referred to as the “Deceased”) had been married and had four children together, all of whom survived the Deceased. In their Wills, they named two of their children, as their executors, and directed the executors to distribute the estate to three of their four children. 


One son commenced this application to obtain an order that would pass over the other son as his co-executor for the Estates. The Applicant argued that it is necessary for the Estates to make a proper enquiry into the nature of inter-vivos transactions between the co-executor Respondent and the Deceased and such an inquiry must be made independent of the co-executor Respondent as he would be in a conflict of interest.


The co-executor Respondent opposed the Applicant’s application, and argued, amongst other things, that the court should not interfere with the testator’s right to nominate his or her executor and removing him would be prejudging the case.

In her decision Justice Gerow states:

In the circumstances of this case, it is my opinion that there is a perceived conflict of interest between the co-executor Respondent in his role as an executor and his interest in his personal capacity. If an action is instituted by the executors as a result of the transfer of the Property, it would be against the co-executor Respondent. In my opinion, the co-executor Respondent, in his capacity as executor, cannot attack the transfer of the Property to himself while at the same time maintaining, in his personal capacity, that the transfer of the Property was proper. By making such a finding I am not prejudging the case. I am simply of the view that, in the circumstances of this case, if an action is commenced as a result of the enquiries into the transfer, the co-executor Respondent cannot conscientiously act as a plaintiff in his capacity as an executor in a case where he will be the defendant.

B.C. legislation is unique compared to the legislation that governs estate trustees in Ontario; however, if a similar situation arose, an application seeking similar relief could be brought under Rule 14.05(3) of the Rules of Civil Procedure.



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

24 May

Is it Possible to Prevent a Will Challenge?

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In a recent blog published by Forbes, Mr. Bernard Krooks considers strategies that could be used to prevent a Will challenge.

In his blog, Mr. Krooks states that "Will contests often occur after a heir or family member perceives some inequity or unjustness in the distribution of money or possessions laid out in the will.  This can be the result of a lack of requisite mental capacity to execute the will, another’s undue influence over the testator, fraud, or improper execution of the will."

Mr. Krooks suggests that a Lawyer drafting a Will can send the testator to medical professional to obtain an opinion on the testator’s capacity to execute a Will.   This would be strong evidence which could be used to propound the Will, long after the testator has died.

Mr. Krooks also suggests that the drafting Lawyer should consider the use of a videotape at the time the testator is signing the Will.  Mr. Krooks explains that the videotape could be used to show that the testator signed the Will "freely and with the requisite mental capacity to agree." 

The use of a videotape at a will execution,  has significant benefits, but also has numerous problems.  This technique has been the topic of numerous debates between estate and trust professionals.

There are steps that we can take to ensure that the Will is being executed in accordance with the applicable legislation, which could help the estate trustee propound the Will; however there is no legislation in Ontario that would estopp a party who has a financial interest in an estate from challenging the validity of the subject Will.

Thank you for reading,


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


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