Tag: extended family
Yesterday I reviewed the decision of Holmes Estate (Re)  B.C.J. No. 45. You will recall that a gift in the testator’s Will to “all my nieces and nephews” was interpreted in the circumstances to mean a bequest to the children of the testator’s siblings including the 18 nieces and nephews of the testator’s late wife.
One such niece, Patricia Meadows, had been married to Alfie Meadows. Alfie was seeking entitlement to a share in the residue of the estate belonging to Patricia, who had died before the testator. He was doing so on the basis of the language contained in the Will that if any of the testator’s nieces or nephews predeceased him, that person’s share was to be paid to their surviving spouse.
The problem for Alfie was that he had been convicted of Patricia’s murder! The Court quite justly denied Alfie entitlement to Patricia’s share in the estate by applying the general rule of public policy that a person is precluded from benefiting from a crime.
The irony in this case is that while Alfie’s crime didn’t pay for him, it did benefit the surviving nieces and nephews, as the gift was a class gift (when a member of the class is disqualified their share is divided amongst the remaining members).
While this case made for an interesting read, I can only hope that the decision will help deter similar claims from arising again.
Have a good day,
In considering causes of estate litigation sometimes you need not look further than to your extended family if the relationships within the extended family are acrimonious.
An extended family can include a spouse, former spouse whether legal or common-law, children and their respective spouses (and former spouses), grandchildren and their spouses (and former spouses), siblings, nieces and nephews, extra-marital partners and other dependents, whether related to you or not. It is possible that any one of the above-noted people might bring a claim against the estate, or raise a dispute. Jealousy amongst family members and/or the anticipation or expectation that they are to or will receive all or a portion of the estate, however unwarranted, may lead to family members taking unreasonable positions with respect to claims they feel they have against the estate.
In making an estate plan then, it is critical to have any and all agreements that may affect your estate plan prepared before you die. These agreements could include separation, marriage, co-habitation, partnership, employment and shareholders agreements depending on the nature and make up of your estate.
While the secrets one has from a family may be extremely touchy, emotional or just difficult to disclose or deal with, their disclosure following death may lead to demands against the estate. An extra-marital relationship, an illness of whatever kind not known to the family, a relationship with a caregiver or promises made to caregivers regarding their compensation can be examples of such secrets. For instance, a friend or family member may be assisting with one’s errands or day to day care. If promises are made to the family friend or relative that they will be “looked after” upon one’s death, then they may make a claim against your estate following your death if their relationship with you and/or compensation is not clearly known.