Tag: equalization claims
In the recent decision of Charles v. Charles Estate, 2018 ONSC 7327, the court discussed the interplay between a claim for interim support, and claims for equalization.
There, the Applicant was the deceased’s spouse of 22 years. There was some evidence that the Applicant and the deceased may have been separated prior to the deceased’s death.
Fifteen days before the deceased died, the deceased severed the joint tenancy on the matrimonial home and other properties, transferred certain properties to his son, liquidated various RRSPs, and drew money on a line of credit secured by the matrimonial home. He also changed his will to significantly reduce the bequests to the Applicant.
The Applicant commenced proceedings for an equalization under the Family Law Act, and to set aside various transactions entered into by the deceased just prior to his death. She also commenced a claim for dependant support.
In the court decision, the court addressed the Applicant’s claim for interim support.
In deciding whether to award interim support, the court considered whether the Applicant was in need of and entitled to support. Relying on the decision of Perkovic v. Marion Estate, 2008 CanLII 52315, the court stated that the test was:
- whether the claimant falls within a “qualifying relationship” under the Succession Law Reform Act;
- whether the deceased was providing support or was under a legal obligation to provide support immediately before his death;
- whether the deceased did not make adequate provision for the claimant’s support.
The burden is on the Applicant to satisfy each of the three elements necessary to obtain an order for interim support on an arguable or prima facie basis.
In Charles, the court found that the Applicant was not in need of support. She earned more income than the deceased, and was the primary provider for the household. There was no evidence that the economic circumstances of the Applicant had worsened to any significant extent since the date of death.
The court did, however, order that the estate pay the interest on the line of credit incurred by the deceased.
In concluding, the court stated that the Applicant’s claim for interim support was “conflated with her property based claims”. Those claims would continue. However, they did not entitle the Applicant to claim interim support. The court did not comment on the merits of such claims.
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When is it Appropriate to Extend the Time Granted in Favour of Equalization under the Family Law Act?
Applications for an extension of time (beyond six months from date of death) to elect under the Family Law Act (“FLA”) are regularly brought before the Court. Decisions with respect to that are often dealt with by way of short endorsements.
Justice Dunphy, in Aquilina v Aquilina, 2018 ONSC 3607, a recent court decision, made some interesting comments regarding applications for an extension of time in such circumstances.
The Deceased passed away in December, 2017, leaving the Applicant (his wife) and their three adult children. The Applicant was primarily a homemaker and as such, her level of information regarding the family financial affairs was imprecise. The Estate was not a simple one to administer, in part due to a number of business interests the Deceased had in the family’s native country, Malta, held through various corporations, real estate holdings and an active business.
At the time of the hearing, the Estate did not have an administrator. It was determined that the Deceased did not leave a Will.
The Applicant in this matter had two options – making a claim under the Succession Law Reform Act (“SLRA”) or the FLA.
Under the SLRA, in the event of an intestacy, the beneficiaries of the Deceased’s estate are the Applicant and their three adult children. Under s. 46(2) of the SLRA, where there is no Will and there is more than one child of the Deceased, the surviving spouse is entitled to 1/3 of the Estate plus the “preferential share” prescribed by s. 45 of the SLRA.
In contrast, s. 5(2) of the FLA provides that the surviving spouse will receive 1/2 of the difference between the value of the net family property of each of the spouses where the Deceased had the higher of the two amounts.
The Applicant has a period of six months from the date of death to make the election as per s. 6(10) of the FLA. Absent an election, the surviving spouse takes under the SLRA.
Criteria for Extension
The Applicant requested that the court: (i) extend the time to make an election until two years from the date of the application; (ii) extend the time for the deemed election to the same date; and (iii) extend the time during which distributions from the Estate are suspended until the same date.
In making a finding, the Court must consider:
- Whether there are apparent grounds for relief;
- Whether delay, if any, was incurred in good faith; and
- Whether anyone will be substantially prejudiced by the delay.
It is important to note, that the surviving spouse does not have to have precise and accurate information but that he or she must have sufficient information to make an informed choice. Justice Dunphy noted that extensions are intended to be the exception and not the rule.
Analysis and Decision
Justice Dunphy held that it was going to take a period of time – very likely a year or more – to be able to gather the facts necessary to understand the value of this Estate and the Applicant’s intersecting interests within (meaning the consequences flowing from her different roles as a shareholder, widow and spouse). Therefore, Justice Dunphy held that there are some grounds for relief in the circumstances of this case.
In considering whether there was any delay that was not incurred in good faith, though Justice Dunphy noted that the Application was brought very close to the six month anniversary of the Deceased’s date of death, he placed weight on the fact that the death was “sudden, unexpected and shocking” and the relative complexity of the Estate. He held that the delay was incurred in good faith.
Justice Dunphy found that there would be no substantial prejudice in this case if an election was granted because the only other beneficiaries of the Estate are the three adult children of the Deceased and the Applicant, who confirmed that they did not oppose the motion. He did balance against that finding, however, the inherent prejudice in having all or a substantial portion of the Estate frozen. In making this consideration, Justice Dunphy found that any prejudice in this matter was slight.
Based on the facts, Justice Dunphy held that more time would be required to consider the rights of the Applicant, as the surviving spouse, under the SLRA as compared to the FLA. As such, he granted the Applicant all the relief sought, but reduced it to one year from the date of the Application instead of the two years that the Applicant was seeking.
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