Tag: Canadian Wills
In a decision out of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, a computer file prepared by the deceased was accepted as a will and admitted to probate. Applying the curative provisions of the Wills, Estates and Succession Act, S.B.C. 2009, c. 13 (“WESA”), which came into force on March 31, 2014, the court was able to conclude that the computer record represented the deceased’s full and final testamentary intentions.
In Hubschi Estate (Re), 2019 BCSC 2040 (CanLII), the deceased died after a short illness. No formal will was found. However, his family was able to locate a Word document on his computer labelled “Budget for 2017”. In that computer file, there was the following statement: “Get a will made out at some point. A 5-way assets split for remaining brother and sisters. Greg and Annette or Trevor as executor.”
By way of family background, the deceased was given up by his birth mother at birth to Children’s Aid. At age 3, the deceased was placed in a foster home with the Stacks. He grew up in the Stack house, and was extremely close to his foster parents and 5 foster siblings. He was treated by the immediate and extended Stack family as a member of the family. Upon his foster mother’s death, her estate was divided into 6 shares, with one share passing to the deceased.
On the other hand, if the document was not found to be a will, the deceased’s estate would pass on an intestacy, and would pass to his birth mother’s sister, with whom the deceased had no contact whatsoever.
The court reviewed a number of decisions applying WESA. The court observed that the purpose of the curative provisions in WESA was to avoid the injustice of a deceased’s testamentary intentions being defeated for no good reason other than strict non-compliance with execution and attestation formalities.
In order to obtain probate of a non-compliant document, the propounder must demonstrate (1) that the testamentary document is authentic, and (2) that the testamentary document contains the full, final and fixed intention of the will-maker. The court found that both of these requirements were met in the Hubschi case.
Previously, I blogged on an Australian case where an unsent text message was admitted to probate under similar legislation. Read about it here. This decision was referred to by the court in Hubschi.
For better or for worse, Ontario legislation does not allow for substantial compliance with the formalities of will execution, and strict compliance is required. While this may lead to greater certainty, it also means that the testamentary intentions of a will-maker are often disregarded where there is not strict compliance with the formal requirements of execution.
Have a great weekend.
I was reminded today by this insightful article by Bryan A. Garner, titled “10 Tips for Better Legal Writing”, that secondary sources are an important component of legal research.
In addition to the 5th edition of Probate Practice, Ian M. Hull and Suzana Popovic-Montag are also co-authors of the 4th edition of Feeney’s Canadian Law of Wills, along with James MacKenzie. Both of which were recently released.
The 4th edition of Feeney’s provides a straightforward commentary on the existing probate and estate administration regimes, in addition to in depth commentary on the applicable case law. The 4th edition of Feeney’s is a resource that draws from statute and case law across all provinces of this country as well as the Commonwealth and the U.S.
As an example, the 4th edition of Feeney’s was recently cited in Vanier v. Vanier, 2016 ONSC 4620, for the following summary of the law on undue influence (at paragraph 10),
“In general, to establish undue influence, the burden of proof rests with the party alleging it. The extent of the influence must amount to coercion; simple influence is not enough. The testator’s free will must be overborne. Put another way, it is not improper for any potential beneficiary to attempt to influence the decision of the testator provided the pleading does not amount to coercion and the latter continues to act as a free agent. “Some begging is permissible.” See Feeney’s Canadian Law of Wills, 4th at 3.10 to 3.14; Hall v. Hall (1868), L.R. 1 P. & D. 481.”
All 18 chapters of this loose-leaf are available for purchase here at the LexisNexis Online Store.
Thanks for reading.