Tag: estates and trusts

08 Jan

Burris’ Mausoleum Makes a Statement

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Those who follow American politics have probably heard of Roland Burris. He is controversial Governor Rod Blagojevich’s choice to replace the Senate seat vacated by President –Elect Barack Obama. While the constitutional debate continues on whether or not Burris can be seated in the Senate, another issue that has grabbed the headlines is Burris’ final resting place.

 

Burris has commissioned for himself a grand mausoleum consisting of two columns and three tablets referring to himself as a trail blazer and listing all his political and business accomplishments, both minor and major, with room for more to be engraved. The monument, referred to “as his resume in stone” had attracted unfavourable attention from the media and earned Burris the nickname “Tombstone”. Needless to say, it was probably not the effect Burris intended.

 

While many people include burial instructions in their Will, such instructions are not binding on the estate. The estate trustee has the ultimate responsibility to make burial arrangements. For those who wish to make elaborate arrangements, they should make those instructions clear to the estate trustee and other family members, so that the estate trustee is not criticized for the expense to the estate. Additionally, we can take Burris’ lead and make our own arrangement during our lifetime. Click here to read Paul Trudelle’s paper on estate issues and dealing with the body after death.

 

Thanks for reading,

 

Diane Vieira

06 Jan

The Duties of Expert Witnesses

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Wendy Reynolds from Slaw recently posted on a proposed regulatory change to the Rules of Civil Procedure with respect to the duties of expert witnesses. Coming into force in two years, the December 27, 2008 Ontario Gazette lists several amendments to the Rules of Civil Procedure including:

RULE 4.1 DUTY OF EXPERT

 

Duty of Expert


4.1.01 
(1)
  It is the duty of every expert engaged by or on behalf of a party to provide evidence in relation to a proceeding under these rules,

(a) to provide opinion evidence that is fair, objective and non-partisan;

(b) to provide opinion evidence that is related only to matters that are within the expert’s area of expertise; and

(c) to provide such additional assistance as the court may reasonably require to determine a matter in issue.

Duty Prevails

(2) The duty in subrule (1) prevails over any obligation owed by the expert to the party by whom or on whose behalf he or she is engaged.  

 

It will be interesting to see what impact, if any, this amendment will have on the duties of expert witnesses. Case law already suggests expert witnesses are already required to report in an independent manner and cannot been seen as an advocating for the party that retains them. The strength of an expert witness comes from their objective evidence and the evidence of an expert witness will be rejected if they are bias.

 

Does this proposed Rule merely confirm the well established principles of expert evidence as it has developed in case law or does it go beyond establishing the independence of an expert witness? Are we moving towards the use of joint experts to assist the Court? We have a few years to find out.

 

Thanks for reading,

 

Diane Vieira

05 Jan

Upcoming Changes in the New Year

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Happy New Year!

It promises to be an interesting year in estates law with exciting changes headed our way. Under the guidance of the Honourable Mr. Justice Brown, the Estates List Practice Direction is being updated and should be implemented before the end of the year.

 

The Ontario Bar Association is starting a listserv for Trusts & Estates section members. This email based mailing list will allow members to post questions or share their thoughts with other members. Members can expect an email later this month from the Ontario Bar Association with details on how to subscribe.

 

The Law Society’s new client identification and verification requirements came into force on December 31, 2008. The Law Society is offering a teleseminar on January 13, 2009 to discuss the new requirements and to assist with any questions practitioners may have.

 

Thanks for reading,

 

Diane Vieira

30 Dec

Looking Forward to 2009

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I hope everyone is having great holiday season.

With the close of 2008, we turn and look to the promise of 2009. In looking ahead to 2009 many may wonder if they have properly protected and provided for those they intend to protect should something unexpected happen to them. Questions may also arise regarding whether a spouse or parent has taken steps to provide for themselves and/or those they intend to provide for.

 

While there are no doubt many things to consider for the new year from a family perspective, perhaps this is the year to resolve to consider, or reconsider, whether your family’s legal affairs have been properly planned.

 

I wish everyone a healthy, happy and prosperous 2009.

 

Happy New Year! Craig

 

29 Aug

To Vary a Trust or Not to Vary a Trust: Does a Statute have an Answer?

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Those wishing to vary a trust in Ontario, can look to the Variation of Trusts Act (R.S.O. 1990, c. V.1) (Act) for the authority to do so. Although the Act is surprisingly only one section in length, don’t let the length fool you.

Essentially, the Act permits the Court to approve a variation of a trust under a will, settlement or other disposition on behalf of minor, unascertained, unborn or contingent beneficiaries if the variation, in the words of the Act, “appears to be for the benefit” of those persons.

While relying on the Act for jurisdiction to make a variation, there are many things to consider in pursuing a variation such as the procedure to follow and the criteria to meet in order to have the variation approved. 

 

In the well-known case of R v. Irving, (1975), 11 O.R. (2d) 442 (H.C.), the Court set out three criteria to consider in determining whether to approve a variation, namely: (i) does the variation keep alive the basic intention of the testator or settler?, (ii) does the variation benefit those for whom the Court is asked to consent?, and (iii) whether a prudent adult motivated by intelligent self-interest and sustained consideration of the expectancies and risks of the variation, would likely accept it?

 

There are a number of cases that have considered these criteria; too many to go into in this blog. Suffice it to say that the Act does provide an answer to the question as to whether one can vary a trust, but the answer is only a partial one as the Court will also consider criteria needed to be met in determining whether to approve a variation.

 

Enjoy the long weekend (and last of the summer), school starts next Tuesday.

 

Craig

26 Aug

The Lord Beaverbrook Saga Continues

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Previously, David Smith has blogged on the dispute between the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton, New Brunswick and the Beaverbrook U.K. Foundation with respect to the ownership of the paintings and sculptures owned by the late Lord Beaverbrook. Click here to read about the background to this dispute and here to read about the costs awarded to the gallery.

You may recall that the arbitrator, retired Supreme Court of Justice Peter Cory awarded ownership of 85 out of the 133 paintings to the gallery. Justice Cory found that that artwork conveyed prior to the gallery opening were irrevocable gifts. In his decision Justice Cory referenced, amongst other evidence,  newspaper and media articles commissioned and authorized by the late Lord Beaverbrook as evidence of Lord Beaverbrook’s donative intent.

In a Notice of Appeal, the foundation accuses Cory of being biased against them throughout the hearing. Lawyers for the gallery has called the appeal baseless and state the accusation of bias were only made after the release of Cory’s decisions and have asked for the appeal to be dismissed. You can read the factum of the gallery on their website. .

At the beginning of the arbitration process both sides agreed to an appeal mechanism. Three former judges from three different provinces will hear an appeal of the arbitration decision of Justice Cory. Justice Coulter Osborne of Ontario was chosen by the gallery. Justice Thomas Braidwood of British Columbia was chosen by the foundation. Those two judges chose Edward Bayada, former justice of the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal to chair the panel. The panel will begin to hear arguments beginning in September 22, 2008.

With the foundation already ordered to pay the costs of arbitration, it will be interesting to see how costs are decided this time around.

Thanks for reading,

Diane Vieira

25 Aug

Finding Legal Information Online

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An abundance of legal information is available online and a new customized search engine that searches for content from law firms has become available. We often begin a search for online information by searching Google or a similar general search engine. Fee Fie Foe Firm is a Canadian law firm search engine that searches content from law firm sites. It allows you to search for articles, newsletters, bulletins, case commentaries, and other legal information produced by law firms in five jurisdictions.

This research tools joins two other free services, Lexology and Mondaq as a way to access publications from multiple law firms in a simplified way. Both these websites provide notification of new commentaries released by law firms by jurisdiction and topic in one daily email to the subscriber.

The growing sophistication of search engines highlights how much easier it has become to find specific information online. Last week, the federal Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart addressed reporters at a meeting of the Canadian Bar Association about her office’s concerns that private information contained in federal tribunal rulings is being spread through the internet and suggested the possibility of anonymizing federal tribunal rulings. She promised to revisit the issue in October when the Privacy Commissioner releases their report on the Privacy Act.

Thanks for reading,

 

Diane Vieira

22 Aug

The Olympics from a Legal Perspective

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 The Beijing Olympic Games come to a close this weekend and the international sports community turns their attention to the 2010 Vancouver Games and the 2012 London Games.
 
The Olympics inspire a multitude of feelings and generate a healthy amount of debate. One thing for certain is that a tremendous amount of preparation is required by the hosting city and the effort of a variety of people are required to pull it all together.
 
An interesting article posted on timesonline looks at the impact of the Olympic Games on the legal profession. The article boldly declares that lawyers are as much a part of the sporting community as athletes. It goes on to describe how the Olympics generate a boom in legal work as a result of preventing ambush marketing and unauthorized broadcasts as well as both defending and prosecuting anti-doping cases.
 
For those interested in learning more about international sports law, a great international law blog Opinio Juris featured some excellent expert commentators during the Beijing Games. A compelling post discussed the growing prominence of athletes representing countries that they are not citizens of. The author contrasts a competitor’s identity vs. a national identity and explains the requirements under the Olympics Charter for an athlete to compete for a nation.
 
Congratulations to all the athletes and let’s get ready for 2010!
 
Enjoy your weekend,

Diane Vieira

21 Aug

Just Because You Say So Doesn’t Make It So

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The approach taken in claims by or against the heirs, next of kin, executors, administrators or assigns of a deceased can differ from other types of legal proceedings simply because the requirements of Section 13 of the Ontario Evidence Act. Section 13 states:

In an action by or against the heirs, next of kin, executors, administrators or assigns of a deceased person, an opposite or interested party shall not obtain a verdict, judgment or decision on his or her own evidence in respect to any matter occurring before the death of the deceased person, unless such evidence is corroborated by some other material evidence.

In determining the nature of the evidence required then to prosecute or defend a claim, one must keep in mind that an adverse party cannot rely on his or her own evidence in respect of any matter occurring before the death of the deceased person, unless such evidence is corroborated by some other material evidence.

In other words, just because the adverse party says it is so, doesn’t make it so.

Section 13 places this additional evidentiary burden on the adverse party understandably because of the estate’s difficulty in defending an action without the oral evidence of the testator. In Burns Estate v. Mellon, the Court of Appeal held that the corroborating evidence must be in addition to and independent of the viva voce evidence of the adverse party; that additional evidence could be either direct or circumstantial though.

As such, attention to the evidence necessary to prove the case and how that evidence is to be marshalled is critical in these claims, whether that be by way of an Orders Giving Directions used to compel the production of documentation that others may have (ie. testamentary documents, medical records, solicitors records, financial records etc.), by way of an examination (ie. examinations for discovery, third party examinations or a de bene esse examination) or otherwise.

Focusing on the evidence that will be needed at trial or that will be persuasive in settlement discussions is but one of the first steps in formulating one’s approach to a claim.

Canadian Olympic Medal Count: holding at 13 (but hopefully with several more to come).

Keep cheering,

Craig

 

18 Jul

BCE Shares: Charities Seize the Opportunity

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If you have recently gone on to your favourite charity’s website or received correspondence from a charity you donate to, you will likely notice an advertisement asking if you own BCE shares. 

The privatization of BCE shares means that some shareholders are now looking for a way to minimize their tax liabilities from the sale of shares. Some financial advisors have advocated  the direct transfer of the publically traded securities to registered charities as one way to minimize any capital gains.

Since 2006, charities seem to have benefitted from the elimination of capital gains for donated shares. In turn, charities have become more sophisticated and take a business-like approach to attracting potential donors of shares. By providing the contact information of a gift planner, easy to fill out share transfer forms with step-by-step instructions, and information about the advantages of share donation, charities are hoping shareholders donate their shares directly to them by presenting them with a win-win situation.

Additionally, charities are providing more information to potential donors about estate planning and the potential tax benefits of donations-in-kind, such as the transfer of shares. Charities and private foundations are sending the message to potential donors that donors can benefit on multiple levels through different types of donations and charities are there to assist them with their choices.

Enjoy your weekend,

Diane Vieira

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