Tag: Enrichment

13 Oct

What’s A Little Enrichment Amongst Friends?

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Friends do things for each other. Some more than others. At what point does the help and assistance given by one friend to another give rise to a claim for unjust enrichment? This was the issue considered in the recent British Columbia decision of Brennan v. Gardy Estate, 2011 BCSC 1337.

As stated by the Honourable Madam Justice Fenlon, the main issue in the case was whether one friend’s contributions "were of a kind and magnitude to establish unjust enrichment or were simply part of the mutual enrichment inherent in a close friendship."

Fenlon J. began her ruling by setting out the test to be met in order to establish unjust enrichment. This requires that the claimant establish:

            i.          An enrichment or benefit to the deceased;

            ii.          a corresponding deprivation to the claimant; and

            iii.         the absence of a juristic reason for the enrichment.

Fenlon J. undertook a careful assessment of the evidence with respect to each of these three criteria. She assessed the nature of the friendship and the services provided. She found that there was a benefit to the deceased from the services rendered; and because the claimant was not paid for his services rendered, there was a corresponding deprivation to the claimant.

However, the claimant was not able to succeed on the third criteria. The court cited case law to the effect that at this stage of the analysis, the courts can look at all of the “circumstances of the transaction” in order to determine whether there is any other reason to deny recovery. 

The Court observed that the claimant lived with the deceased and paid less than market rent while he lived there. Rather than a contract for services in exchange for rent, the court found that the claimant provided the services he did with a "donative" intent. In fact, the claimant acknowledged that he did not expect to be compensated for the services he provided to the deceased. Nor did he expect to receive any benefit from the deceased’s estate after his death. One witness described the relationship between the claimant and the deceased as one of "mutual caretaking". The Court noted that the claimant and the deceased gave to each other freely and generously. "In short, this was a case of mutual giving arising out of a close mutual friendship." This mutual giving was a relevant consideration in determining their reasonable expectations and the existence of a juristic reason for the conferral of the benefit in issue. 

In any event, Fenlon J. stated that even if there was no juristic reason for the conferral of the benefit, she would not have the remedy stage award damages to the claimant because of the benefits he received in return from the deceased which equalled or exceeded those he provided to the deceased.

Thank you for reading.

Paul E. Trudelle – Click here for more information on Paul Trudelle

05 Jul

Common Law Partners’ Rights to Property

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Yesterday’s blog considered the fact that a common law spouse has no beneficial entitlement to his or her deceased spouse’s estate on an intestacy.  There are, however, remedies available to the disappointed spouse. 

The first of these is a claim for dependant support found in Part V of the Succession Law Reform Act, whereby a common law spouse (or any other “dependant” of the deceased)  can ask for support where no adequate provision has been made for the dependant by the deceased.  

The Court has broad discretion to grant relief that, according to section 62(3) of the Act, can take a variety of forms, including the transfer, use or occupation of specified property in satisfaction of the dependant’s need for support.  

In many situations involving long-term common law relationships, there may also be an argument for equitable (as opposed to legal) ownership of property by the surviving common law spouse. These rights will be founded on the principles of unjust enrichment and include, for example, resulting or constructive trust, and proprietary estoppel.

The Supreme Court of Canada has recently considered two cases that provide guidance on unjust enrichment in the context of common law relationships. The Court released one decision in the matters of Kerr v. Baranow, and Vanasse v. Seguin, which I will be discussing in the next couple of blogs.    

Sharon Davis – Click here for more information on Sharon Davis

06 Jun

Unjust Enrichment, An Encore

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Hot on the heels of the BC Court of Appeal decision that Sharon Davis blogged on last Friday is the BC Supreme Court decision of Graham v. Ellard, 2011 BCSC 672 (CanLII).

There, a surviving spouse brought a claim against her late husband’s estate for a declaration that she is entitled to a beneficial interest in the estate’s half interest in the home on the basis of unjust enrichment.

The wife and the deceased were divorced in 1998. The divorce order required that their home be sold, and the proceeds divided equally. However, the order further provided that the home was not to be sold until the youngest child was no longer a child of the marriage. However, the home was never sold, even after the youngest child ceased to be a child of the marriage, or following the death of the husband.

The deceased died in 2001. After his death, his estate brought an application to sell the home, but the application was, for reasons that are not clear, dismissed. 

From the date of the divorce until the trial, the wife paid all of the upkeep expenses associated with the home.

In response to the wife’s claim to the estate’s interest in the home, the estate raised a number of defences. The first was that the claim was barred by reason of cause of action estoppel. The estate argued that the sale of the home was ordered at the divorce trial, and thus it was not open to the wife to now raise the issue.

The court held that the wife could have raised the issue of the husband’s contribution to the carrying costs of the home, but didn’t. Her claim on the basis that she was entitled to contribution for carrying costs was therefore dismissed.

However, the court held that the wife’s claim for unjust enrichment was allowed to stand. The evidence was that the value of the home increased substantially: from $195,000 to $395,000. The wife’s claim for unjust enrichment was found to not be res judicata, as it did not exist at the time of the divorce trial. The court held that it was unforeseeable at the time.

The court went on to hold that the estate was unjustly enriched by the increase in the value of the home as a result of the wife paying the carrying costs over the years.

As to a remedy, the court ordered that the home was to be sold and the proceeds divided between the wife and the estate, subject to the estate being liable to the wife for half of the carrying costs paid by her, other than utilities.   No set off for occupational rent was allowed. (The decision contains a good, concise summary of the equitable principles to be considered when considering a claim for occupational rent.) 

Thank you for reading,

Paul E. Trudelle – Click here for more information on Paul Trudelle. 

06 Nov

Trust Claims and Non-Married Spouses – Hull on Estates Episode #84

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Listen to Trust Claims and Non-Married Spouses

This week on Hull on Estates, David Smith and Megan Connolly reference the case Belvedere v. Brittain Estate to discuss constructive trust claims made against an estate by a non-married spouse.



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