Tag: estates and trusts

04 Oct

Can you bulletproof your will?

Suzana Popovic-Montag Beneficiary Designations, Estate & Trust, Estate Planning, Trustees, Uncategorized, Wills Tags: , , , , 0 Comments

As estate litigators with decades of experience, we’ve seen it all when it comes to estate disputes. Our firm has dealt with thousands of cases and family situations. Not surprisingly, we’re often asked if there’s a bulletproof will that’s beyond challenge. Is there a way to guarantee that a will can’t be successfully attacked and your wishes thwarted?

The truth is a simple one: there is no 100% certain solution. However, while you can’t get a coat of armor for your will, you can build some thick layers of protection that can greatly reduce the chances of it being successfully challenged. Here are three ways you can help prevent will disputes:

  1. Make sure your planning is current

Times change, family situations can change, family wealth can change. In so many cases, a will drafted 20 years ago will not accurately reflect the true wishes of a testator or the true expectations of beneficiaries. But we’ve seen those situations time and time again – and that’s when conflicts occur.

Here’s your first layer of protection: make sure you will and estate plan are up-to-date and reflect your current situation and wishes. It sounds obvious, but it’s a trap many fall into. To get it right, you need advice from a lawyer or advisor with a deep understanding of your assets and your family situation. It’s worth the time, effort, and expense to ensure you capture your current wishes and situation in your planning.

  1. Talk it out

The most obvious step to take is often the most difficult to execute: talk to your family. Let them know your plans, listen to their concerns, explain your reasons, and adjust your planning as needed to minimize the chances of dispute after you’re gone. Even if you can’t resolve family conflicts entirely, your clear communication of your wishes – and your willingness to listen to the concerns of family members – will go a long way to minimizing a challenge to your will.

  1. Add a “no contest” clause to your will

This is truly a band aid solution, as it doesn’t address the true cause of conflict or attempt to resolve it. But in cases where you suspect that a challenge to your estate plans will be launched, adding a “no contest” clause to your will can be effective in thwarting it. With a no contest clause, when a beneficiary contests a will, it invalidates their inheritance, and the assets are distributed as though the beneficiary predeceased the testator. Such a clause has typically been upheld as enforceable by courts in Canada. However, there are exceptions, and great care and expert advice is needed when adding this provision to your will.

We discuss a few different angles of these issues in this article and Hull & Hull TV episode: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/suzana-popovicmontag/family-will-conflict_b_3676914.html

Thank you for reading.
Suzana Popovic-Montag

28 Oct

A Cautionary Tale on Trustee Liability

Lisa-Renee Executors and Trustees, Litigation, Trustees Tags: , , , , , , 0 Comments

Acting as a Trustee is not only an onerous task but comes with a significant exposure to personal liability.

A trust can be established where three certainties are present: (a) certainty of intention – the Trustee knows that he or she will hold property for the benefit of another; (b) certainty of the subject matter – the property to be held by the Trustee is clearly identified; and (c) certain of objects – the beneficiary of the trust is clearly established.

Trustee exposed to personal liability even when acting honestly upon mistaken facts.
“This decision is a good example of how easily a trust can be created and a Trustee can attract personal liability even when acting honestly upon mistaken facts.”

In Ahmed v. Ibrahim, 2016 ONSC 6430 (ONSC Div. Court), the mother of the plaintiff (Amina) received a settlement payment from a motor vehicle accident. The settlement funds totalling $27,335.03 were deposited into Amal’s bank account.  At the time of the deposit, Amal had $19,656.00 in her account.  Upon receiving the settlement funds and on Amina’s request, Amal transferred the balance of her bank account (i.e. $46,996.03) to her mother.  Amina in turn transferred the funds to a bank account owned by Mohamed (the “Trust Funds”).  Believing the Trust Funds belonged to Amina, Mohamed agreed to hold the funds in trust.  When Amal demanded her share of the Trust Funds, Mohamed advised that he had already disbursed all of the Trust Funds to Amina in accordance with Amina’s instructions.

Amal sued Mohamed and Amina.  At trial, Amina argued that the Trust Funds belonged solely to her and that Amal had no entitlement to the Trust Funds.  Amal, however, presented sufficient evidence to show that $19,656.00 of the Trust Funds belonged to her and that none of the funds disbursed by Mohamed had been used for her (Amal’s) benefit.  It was Mohamed’s evidence that he believed the Trust Funds belonged solely to Amina and that, in any event, Amina told him the Trust Funds withdrawn by him were used for Amal’s benefit.  The judge preferred Amal’s version of the events over Amina and ordered Mohamed, to pay $19,656.00 to Amal.

On appeal Mohamed argued that the trial judge’s decision against him should be reversed because he acted properly in withdrawing the funds, on Amina’s instructions, because he believed the Trust Funds belonged to solely to Amina.  In upholding the trial judge’s decision, the Divisional Court held that the trial judge’s findings of fact were owed deference since he had the opportunity to assess the credibility of the parties and accordingly the decision should stand.

This decision is a good example of how easily a trust can be created and a Trustee can attract personal liability even when acting honestly upon mistaken facts.

Thanks for reading and happy Friday!

Lisa-Renee Haseley

21 Jun

Hull on Estates #472 – Estate Freezes and Trusts

Hull & Hull LLP Archived BLOG POSTS - Hull on Estates, Estate & Trust, Hull on Estate and Succession Planning, Hull on Estates, Podcasts, PODCASTS / TRANSCRIBED, Show Notes, Show Notes Tags: , , , , , 0 Comments

This week on Hull on Estates, Natalia Angelini and Noah Weisberg discuss the relationship between estate freezes and trusts as considered in Donovan Waters’ article located in the Estates and Trusts Pension Journal.

Should you have any questions, please email us at webmaster@hullandhull.com or leave a comment on our blog.

Click here for more information on Natalia Angelini.

Click here for more information on Noah Weisberg.

15 Jun

Removing an Estate Trustee for Conflict of Interest

Suzana Popovic-Montag Executors and Trustees Tags: , , , 0 Comments

Estate Trustees play a critical role in administering an Estate. Their role can give them great decision making power. Yet this power can be abused. A conflict of interest may arise between the Estate Trustee in their role as representing the Estate and their personal interests. This conflict risks favouring their personal interests over the Estate, to which they owe  fiduciary obligations. Conflicts of interests, actual or potential, raise significant concerns. An application to remove a trustee may be warranted in circumstances where there are significant allegations made.

The Court in Borisko v Borisko, 2010 ONSC 2670 found it appropriate to grant a removal application where significant allegations aroused the distrust and hostility of the beneficiaries. In doing so, the Court in that decision stated that an application for removing a trustee was not a fact finding process.  In its reasons, the Court considered a number of allegations indicating a breach of duty or conflict of interest. The Trustee was alleged to have tried to buy shares from the beneficiaries when he knew they were valued at nearly twice what he offered. He was also alleged to have withheld this information from the beneficiaries. The Trustee was said to have refused to transfer the shares and dividends in a company to the family trust, but instead included the assets in the Estate to increase the Estate’s value and his compensation. These allegations, which were substantiated with evidence, were sufficient for the Court in this case to order the removal of the trustee.

entrance, doorway, walking, pants, shoes, man, guy

As has been previously blogged, the Court takes such an application very seriously. The Court will prioritize the welfare of the beneficiaries as the governing principle when considering whether to grant such an application. It will also consider whether the administration of the Estate will be delayed should the Estate Trustee remain in office. If the Estate Trustee is named in the Last Will and Testament, this will also be of some importance to the determination of whether to grant the application for removal.

The mechanism for removing an Estate Trustee is by recourse to section 37(1) of the Trustee Act. This section requires that the Court, when removing a trustee, appoint a replacement. The Court may also exercise its inherent jurisdiction to remove the Trustee without appointing a replacement. The authority to do so is confirmed by the Court of Appeal Decision, Evans v Gonder, 2010 ONCA 172 where it was held that no single provision or the Trustee Act, when read as a whole, ousted the inherent equitable jurisdiction of a Superior Court.

Thanks for reading.

Suzana Popovic-Montag

25 Mar

Family Law/Trusts and Estates Event for Lucy McSweeney

Hull & Hull LLP Estate & Trust, Passing of Accounts Tags: , , , , 0 Comments

On March 30, 2011, the Family Law Section and Trusts and Estates Section of the Ontario Bar Association are holding a joint event to meet the Province’s new Children’s Lawyer, Ms. Lucy McSweeney. Ms. McSweeney was appointed to the position of Children’s Lawyer for Ontario on September 18, 2010. I understand that Ms. McSweeney’s legal background includes civil litigation, human rights, constitutional and labour law. The Office of the Children’s Lawyer is part of the Ministry of the Attorney General and provides legal services on behalf of children under the age of 18, and in estates, on behalf of the unborn and unascertained, as well.

Ms. McSweeney will address both the Family Law and the Trusts and Estates Sections. This event will allow those in attendance to meet and hear Ms. McSweeney. The program chairs are Dan Goldberg, Senior Counsel, Office of the Children’s Lawyer (Personal Rights) and Susan Stamm, Counsel, Office of the Children’s Lawyer (Property Rights). 

For more information, please contact Blossom Pangowish, OBA Sections Co-ordinator, at (416) 869-0513, ext. 399 or at blossom@oba.org.

See you there.

Craig R. Vander Zee – Click here for more information on Craig Vander Zee.

23 Mar

The Contested Passing of Accounts (Continued)

Hull & Hull LLP Estate & Trust, Passing of Accounts Tags: , , , 0 Comments

Today’s blog is a continuation of my blogs this week addressing some aspects of preparation for a trial/hearing in a contested passing of accounts. I briefly touch upon transcripts, the Request to Admit and Witnesses today.

It is important in preparing for trial to review the transcripts of the examinations conducted to assist counsel with locating evidence in the transcripts during trial, including admissions and/or inconsistent statements made by a witness at trial, to address the completeness of questions on the examinations, and whether additional discovery is needed before trial.

If a damages brief is to be provided by the opposing party as a result of an undertaking at examinations or otherwise, one can ensure that it has been provided.

A party may also, further to Rule 51.02 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, at any time, by serving a Request to Admit, request any other party to admit, for the purposes of the proceeding only, the truth of a fact or the authenticity of a document. A copy of any document mentioned in the Request to Admit shall, where practicable be served with the request (unless a copy is already in the possession of the other party).

The opposing party must respond to the Request to Admit as required by the Rules of Civil Procedure, failing which the opposing party will be deemed to admit the truth of the facts asserted in the Request to Admit or the authenticity of the documents referred to in the Request to Admit.  

There may be cost consequences if a party refuses to admit the truth of a fact or authenticate documents which are proven or authenticated during the trial.

Requests to Admit may be effective to: (i) reduce the facts in dispute, (ii) reduce the number of witnesses to be called and/or the examination of a witness, (iii) minimize the costs and length of the trial, and (iv) avoid having to authenticate documents.

With respect to witnesses, amongst other things, it is helpful to make a witness list of anticipated witnesses for each of the parties, prepare a chart of the issues/documents to be proved by each witness and identify and consider the concerns, evidentiary or not, with the evidence and documents to be dealt with by each witness. If the witnesses are experts, the Rules of Civil Procedure have certain requirements. Summons to Witness should also be considered (Rule 53.04) as well as whether an Order excluding witnesses is necessary (Rule 52.06).

Thanks for reading.

Craig R. Vander Zee – Click here for more information on Craig Vander Zee.

09 Oct

Verdict in Astor Estate Criminal Case

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The 85 year old son of New York socialite, Brooke Astor was convicted yesterday of grand larceny and scheming to fraud. For a background to the proceedings, click here and here.

After a 5 month trial and 12 days of jury deliberations, Anthony D. Marshall was found guilty of 14 charges, including giving himself a pay-rise of $1 million for managing his mother’s finances. He faces a mandatory sentence from 1 to 25 years behind bars. His sentencing is set for December 8, 2009.

The attorney who did the estate planning for Mrs. Astor was also convicted of forgery charges. Click here to read David Smith’s blog on the attorney’s actions.

The prosecution argued that Mrs. Astor’s Alzheimer’s was advanced so far that she could not understand the complex changes to her 2004 Will or other financial decisions that benefitted her son, such as the $1 million salary.

The defence has argued that Mrs. Astor had lucid moments despite her Alzheimer’s and that she gave her only son control of her estate out of love.

The story does not end there. Mr. Marshall may appeal and the question of what will happen to Mrs. Astor’s $180 million estate has not been resolved. A civil case was postponed pending the resolution of the criminal charges against Mr. Marshall. Some of the charitable beneficiaries of the estate sent observers to the criminal trial and it are not clear how evidence it the criminal  trial will impact the civil case.

Whichever Will is eventually probated, Mr. Marshall will receive a large portion of his late mother’s estate.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Diane Vieira

Diane  A. Vieira – Click here for more information on Diane Vieira.

07 Oct

Ted Williams’ Cryonics Saga Continues

Hull & Hull LLP In the News Tags: , , , , , 0 Comments

Baseball Hall of Famer, Ted Williams is the news again as a former employee of the cryonics facility in which Williams’ body is preserved is releasing a book detailing alleged mistreatment of Williams’ remains.

By way of background, Williams died in 2002.  Within hours of his death, Williams’ body was flown to Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Arizona to be cryonically preserved in hopes of being reanimated in the future. Williams’ head was separated from his body and both preserved separately in liquid nitrogen.

In his 1996 Will, Williams requested to be cremated. However, two of Williams’ children produced a handwritten note signed in 2000 by Williams and themselves stating that they all wanted to be cryonically preserved in hopes of being resuscitated and reunited in the future.

Williams’ eldest child brought proceedings demanding that her father’s body be cremated. Their legal dispute was resolved and Williams remains frozen. Since those legal proceedings, Williams’ son has also died and been cryonically preserved in the same facility.

Alcor Life Extension Foundation, the world’s largest cryonics facility, currently has 88 people preserved and a further 905 signed on for preservation.  While cryonics is not specifically prohibited in any province in Canada, British Columbia does have a regulation prohibiting the sale of an arrangement of the preservation or storage of human remains based on cryonics and other processes with the expectation of resuscitation of human remains but does allow a funeral director to prepare a body for cryonics preservation as long as the preparation of the body is in compliance with provincial health regulations and human remains transfer regulations.

Thanks for reading,

Diane Vieira

Diane A. Vieira – Click here for more information on Diane Vieira.

06 Oct

Life Expectancy Trends Means More Centenarians

Hull & Hull LLP Elder Law Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

BBC News recently commented on a study published in the Lancet journal that shows more than half the babies now born in the UK and other wealthy nations will live to be 100 years old.  The data from the study indicates that these extra years would be spent with less serious disabilities for the elderly.

The researchers, from the Danish Aging Research Center, refer to “four ages of man”-child, adult, young old age and old old age. Surprisingly, there was little evidence that those who belonged in the old old age group were unhealthier that those in the young old age group likely because the frailest elderly died first leaving the more robust to survive past the age of 85. Danish and American studies show that about 30%-40% of those falling into the old old group live independently.

Of course, such a development requires countries to reform their health-care services, employment practices, and care services. In the U.K., with an election looming, the Tory party has promised a Home Protection Plan that would allow people at the age of 65 to make a one time payment plan of £8,000 pounds in exchange for free full-time residential care in later life. This proposed policy addresses the issue of the elderly having to sell their houses in exchange for funding care giving services.

A significant longer life expectancy requires careful retirement and estate planning. If this trend towards increased life expectancy continues, long standing assumptions will have to be altered.

Thanks for reading,

Diane Vieira

Diane Vieira – Click here for more inforamtion on Diane Vieira.


05 Oct

Supreme Court: UK Edition

Hull & Hull LLP In the News Tags: , , , , , , , 0 Comments

October 1, 2009 was a historical day in U.K.’s judicial history, as the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom was established.

Prior to last week, the House of Lords held the judicial function as the court of last resort.
A Committee of legally qualified lords who sat in the House of Lords, known as the Law Lords, heard final appeals of court decisions.  Even though they rarely took part in political debates or voted on legislation, the Law Lords were peers of the House of Lords.

Prompted by concern and possible criticism by the European Union, due to the appearance of a conflict of interest as the officials who execute laws were those testing those laws, there was a movement to create visibly distinct legislative, judicial, and executive powers.

In 2003, then Prime Minister Tony Blair announced the creation of a judicial body to act as a Supreme Court. The Constitutional Reform Act, 2005 provides that the Supreme Court take over the judicial functions from the House of Lords. Now the Supreme Court has their own building, identity separate from the House of Lords, and blog.

The Supreme Court is the court of the last resort in all civil matters in the U.K. and criminal matters in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

There are 12 Law Lords (with one current vacancy) who will hear appeals, with up to nine judges hearing an appeal. It will be interesting to see if the appointment of the Law Lords becomes politicized as in the United States or if this move merely re-brands the system that was already in place.

Thanks for reading,

Diane Vieira

Diane A. Vieira – Click here for more information on Diane Vieira.



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