Tag: estate and trust
Last night, I overheard a distressed woman confiding to a friend about a relative who was declared incapable of managing her property. The Public Guardian and Trustee (“PGT”) had stepped into her shoes to take control and to care for her property. This case peaked my curiosity, so I went home and did some research on this topic.
Pursuant to Section 15 of the Substitute Decision Act (“SDA”), the PGT can be declared a person’s statutory guardian of property where a certificate is issued under the Mental Health Act (“MHA”) certifying that a person who is a patient of a psychiatric facility is incapable of managing property. Whenever a patient is admitted to a “psychiatric facility”, as defined by the MHA, a physician examines the patient to determine if he or she is capable of managing property. If the physician determines that the patient is not capable of managing property, then he or she must issue a certificate of incapacity. The certificate is subsequently sent to the PGT. As a result, Section 15 is triggered and the PGT steps in as the statutory guardian without any procedural requirement.
Pursuant to Section 16 of the SDA, the PGT can be declared a persons statutory guardian of property where a person requests an assessor to perform an assessment of either their capacity or another person’s capacity. This assessment is done with the view of determining whether the PGT should become the statutory guardian’s of the property. If a person wishes to request that an assessor perform an assessment of another person’s capacity, the person requesting the assessment must: (i) have reason to believe that the other person may be incapable of managing property, (ii) have made reasonable enquiries and have no knowledge of the existence of any attorney under a continuing power of attorney, and (iii) have made reasonable enquiries and have no knowledge of any spouse, partner or relative of the other person who intends to make an application for the appointment of a guardianship of property.
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A widow in the United Kingdom is suing her two children, her one-year-old son and three-year old-daughter, over her late husband’s estate. Taryn Dielle launched an action in London’s High Court claiming that the country’s intestacy laws do not provide her with enough money to care for her children.
Her husband, a London millionaire, died in 2007 without leaving a Will. As he died intestate, his estate, worth about £2,231,201 (approximately 4.5 million dollars), was distributed in accordance with the United Kingdom’s intestacy rules. According to those rules, Ms. Dielle is to receive the statutory legacy and £50,000.00 ($100,000) per year in interest from her late husband’s estate, while her two children inherit the rest of the estate.
The United Kingdom’s intestacy rules provide that when someone dies intestate, leaving a spouse and issue, the surviving spouse receives all personal chattels, a lump sum of £125,000 (just over $250,000 dollars) referred to as the statutory legacy, and a life interest in one half of the residue. The surviving spouse can only receive the interest from the residue and cannot encroach upon the capital. The issue of the Deceased receive one half of any excess over the statutory legacy and ultimately they receive the other half of the residue when the surviving spouse dies. To contrast the UK law with Canada’s intestacy succession law, please read David Smith’s blog on intestacy distribution.
This will be an interesting case to follow and is already being referred to as an example that highlights the importance of estate planning.
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Once in a blue moon I find myself considering and marveling at the genius and breadth of the Common Law. I am amazed by the Common Law’s ability to function effectively in what otherwise appear to be remarkably different parts of the world, particularly in the area of Estates and Trusts.
Of course, this phenomenon is a historical after-effect of the size and reach, particularly in the 17th to and 19th Centuries, of the British Empire. Military history buffs will know this was largely attributable to the Royal Navy’s increasing dominance over the oceans of the world. During that time (and before), the Common Law spread from the relatively tiny islands of the UK to vast and diverse areas: from India, Hong Kong, parts of Africa and Singapore to tiny island states in the Caribbean such as Barbados, the list goes on and on.
No doubt Estate Law has its local variants in each location, but I am more often than not struck by the similarities. The attached article about Wills and Probate in Hong Kong would not be much different in Ontario, and I expect most non-lawyers would be hard-pressed to spot the differences. Here’s a website encouraging people to outsource legal services to India, including trust deeds, although to my mind that may exaggerate the cross-jurisdictional similarities of Estates law. It seems to me it would still be best to retain a local lawyer in whatever jurisdiction you’re dealing. For the truly exotic, review this website talking about how the governing Estate law in Singapore shifted from the Common Law to Islamic law.
With Canada’s direct reliance on British jurisprudence lasting until 1949 when final appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council were ended, we certainly have played our role in this pattern and continue to do so.
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Whether voluntary or mandatory, mediation is now a common occurrence in estate and trust litigation. Much has been written and blogged on the subject. I therefore thought it worthwhile to comment on the changing nature of the plenary session from a practioner’s point of view.
Traditionally, the plenary session brought the parties and their counsel together at the outset of the mediation so that the mediator could review the ground rules or “rules of engagement”, discuss the benefits of reaching a mediated settlement, and touch upon role of the mediator during the process. Counsel were then invited to present their client’s case usually adopting an adversarial stance and focusing on a “rights-based” approach to the mediation. Next up were clients who, understandably, often became angry or confrontational.
However, plenary sessions have largely changed. It is now widely recognized that allowing counsel and parties to make opening statements only inflames the situation and places the focus on what divides the parties rather than what unites them. Consequently, the mediation is off to a poor start and the mediator spends considerable energy unwinding the newly minted ill-will.