It is that time of the year when media outlets release their “top” or “most popular” lists, like the Time 100.
I came across a rather interesting and topical list the other day called “The Most Obnoxious Celebrity Wills” by Ranker. This particular list features 24 celebrity Wills and I will excerpt some of the notable mentions here:
- Napoleon Bonaparte’s Will was first on the list. Apparently, his Will included a direction for his head to be shaved and for his hair to be divided amongst his friends.
- Harry Houdini asked his wife to hold an annual séance to contact his spirit.
- Philip Seymour Hoffman wanted his son to be raised in three different cities: New York, Chicago, and San Francisco.
- Charles Dickens gave directions for a particular dress code at his funeral.
- Fred Baur, the person who designed the Pringles can, wanted to buried in a Pringles can.
Turns out testamentary freedom is whatever you want to make of it but the enforceability of provisions like these are another matter.
Thanks for reading and Happy Holidays!
You advise and document estate plans for clients. You’re meticulous about detail and always do a thorough job. Is there anything you’ve overlooked?
Likely not when it comes to estate assets – but what about the softer, quality of life advice related to the family and estate of your clients? A few actions can not only smooth out the estate settlement process but also enhance the life of your clients today.
Here are five actions that all of us should consider before we die.
Tell your family your estate intentions
We’ve said it before: people can’t read minds and they don’t know what they don’t know. There can be many good reasons for the unequal treatment of family members under a will (such as a disability) but unequal can equate to “unloved” unless it’s explained. Before you put the final touches to your estate documents, let your family members know what you intend to do, and work out any issues now, because you won’t be around to work them out after you’re gone.
Pay for an extended family trip
Travel brings people out of their comfort zone and creates interaction that would otherwise never occur. It may not be all love and honey – family dynamics are what they are – but you may be pleasantly surprised at what happens when your adult children and their families interact outside of their day-to-day lives. The challenge of bringing people together can seem overwhelming, but it’s a challenge worth tackling. It doesn’t have to be an African safari (although those are great if you can afford it). Just make it two nights or longer at a place that’s away from anyone’s family home, cottage or chalet. If they can drop all plans and attend your funeral (they surely will), they can create time for a family trip that mom or dad wants.
Give some gifts during your lifetime
We all know the saying “you can’t take it with you.” As much as we believe it, it can be hard to act on it because we all (secretly) think we’ll live forever. But we won’t, and there’s joy in sharing now. So as the song says, “let it go”, or at least let some of it go. If you have surplus wealth, or surplus assets of value – such as artwork that will never fit in a newly downsized space – you can bring and experience great happiness in sharing things now, rather than after you’re gone.
Record some early memories
You’ve likely experienced this at a family gathering. You tell a simple fact about your early life and someone says: “I never knew you spent a summer in New York City.” It shouldn’t surprise any of us – our adult children can’t possibly know about the 30 or 40 years of our lives before they were born, unless we tell them.
So, record some memories – you’re bound to surprise both them and yourself with what you come up with. You can find some good tips on prompting those memories here: http://www.instructables.com/id/Record-Your-Familys-Oral-History-before-it-dies-/.
Make your funeral intentions known
It’s a hotly debated question: is a funeral for the living or for the dead? In most cases, it’s for both, which is why it makes sense to put some thought into what you envision for your funeral and then talk to your family to work towards a plan that everyone can agree on. There are different levels of pre-planning, both formal and informal, but having the wishes of you and your family documented can go a long way toward a smooth process at a difficult time. For those in Ontario, the provincial government provides a good overview of your rights related to pre-planning with a funeral service provider: https://www.ontario.ca/page/pre-plan-and-pre-pay-final-arrangements.
Thank you for reading!
This week on Hull on Estates, Natalia Angelini and Umair Abdul Qadir discuss Catto v Catto, 2016 ONSC 3025 (http://bit.ly/2cLwM6I), and the conflicts that can arise over funeral and burial arrangements on an intestacy. Read more about the Catto decision on our blog (http://bit.ly/2c4dOH3). And for more on the duty of the Estate Trustee to make funeral and burial arrangements, be sure to check out a paper from our Estate, Trust and Capacity Law Breakfast Series entitled “The Moment of Death and Beyond: Preliminary Duties of the Estate Trustee”. (http://bit.ly/2cJeekY)
Should you have any questions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment on our blog.
Shortly after a death, the Estate Trustee is called upon to make important decisions about the funeral and burial arrangements for the deceased.
In many instances, the deceased’s Last Will and Testament may provide instructions to the Estate Trustee regarding the funeral or the burial. However, such wishes regarding burial and funeral arrangements are precatory and not binding on the Estate Trustee. Generally speaking, while it is advisable for an Estate Trustee to consider the wishes of the deceased and his or her next-of-kin when making decisions about the funeral and the burial, the Estate Trustee’s authority to make such decisions is only constrained by a legal duty to dispose of the remains in a dignified manner.
While the authority to make these decisions is fairly straightforward where a deceased person leaves a Will naming an Estate Trustee, conflicts between family members can arise when the deceased dies intestate. This was recently illustrated by the Honourable Justice Smith’s decision in Catto v Catto, 2016 ONSC 3025.
In Catto, the Deceased died after less than a year of marriage to his spouse, Donna. Donna made arrangements for the Deceased’s funeral and burial in his hometown of LaColle, Quebec. However, before the Deceased’s ashes could be buried in his family’s plot in Quebec, Donna advised the funeral director that she wished to transport the ashes back to Peterborough. The funeral director advised Donna that the Deceased’s place of burial was ultimately her decision, and Donna decided to have the ashes interred in Peterborough without notice to any of the Deceased’s family members.
The Deceased’s mother subsequently brought an Application, alleging that the Deceased had wished to be buried in the family plot in Quebec and that Donna had agreed to the Deceased’s burial in the family plot. The Deceased’s mother sought Orders that the Deceased’s ashes be exhumed and that half of the ashes be returned to the family plot. As the Deceased had died without a Will, she also sought an Order appointing her as the Deceased’s Estate Trustee.
Where a person dies intestate, section 29 of the Estates Act gives the Court the discretion to appoint the spouse or common law partner, the next-of-kin, or both the spouse and the next-of-kin as the Estate Trustee. Justice Smith confirmed that section 29 does not confer a priority to the spouse to be appointed as Estate Trustee.
However, in the circumstances, given that the Deceased’s mother lived outside Ontario, that Donna was the sole beneficiary of the Deceased’s Estate, and that there was no potential conflict of interest with her appointment as Estate Trustee, Justice Smith concluded that the administration of the Deceased’s Estate should be committed to his spouse.
Thus, Justice Smith held that “[t]he decision on where the deceased is to be buried and the manner of burial is a right that is granted to the administrator of the Estate which in this case, is his wife Donna.” The relief sought by the Deceased’s mother with respect to the exhumation and reburial of the Deceased’s ashes was denied.
The Catto decision highlights the conflicts that can emerge on an intestacy, and serves as a reminder of the importance of making a Will: although the testator may not be able to dictate the terms of his or her funeral and burial, he or she may be able to minimize the conflict and acrimony over who has the authority to make these decisions by simply naming an Estate Trustee.
Thank you for reading,
Umair Abdul Qadir
Obituaries come in various shapes and sizes. There is no law setting out what an obituary must include, nor where it must be published.
A cursory review of our prior blogs on this topic indicate that humour appears to be a recurring theme.
The obituary for Mary Anne Noland, is no exception. The writer clearly had politics in mind when writing Mary’s obituary, which states:
NOLAND, Mary Anne Alfriend. Faced with the prospect of voting for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, Mary Anne Noland of Richmond chose, instead, to pass into the eternal love of God on Sunday, May 15, 2016, at the age of 68. Born in Danville, Va., Mary Anne was a graduate of Douglas Freeman High School (1966) and the University of Virginia School of Nursing (1970). A faithful child of God, Mary Anne devoted her life to sharing the love she received from Christ with all whose lives she touched as a wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, friend and nurse. Mary Anne was predeceased by her father, Kyle T. Alfriend Jr. and Esther G. Alfriend of Richmond. She is survived by her husband, Jim; sister, Esther; and brothers, Terry (Bonnie) and Mac (Carole). She was a mother to three sons, Jake (Stormy), Josh (Amy) and David (Katie); and she was “Grammy” to 10 beloved grandchildren. A visitation will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 17, at Trinity United Methodist Church, 903 Forest Ave., in Henrico. A memorial service will be held on Wednesday, May 18, 1 p.m., with a reception to follow, also at Trinity UMC. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to CARITAS, P.O. Box 25790, Richmond, Va. 23260 (www.caritasva.org).
A co-worker recently passed along this ESPN article chronicling the storied life of Ted Williams, arguably one of the greatest baseball players to have ever played the game. While I must admit that my love for sports stems from hockey and the beautiful game of soccer, as Estates lawyers, my co-worker and I were drawn to the issues surrounding the Last Will of Ted Williams and his burial wishes.
According to this Daily Mail article, Williams executed a Last Will and Testament in 1996 apparently indicating that he wanted to have his body cremated and his ashes sprinkled around his Florida Keys fishing grounds “…where the water is very deep”.
Notwithstanding the contents of Williams’ Last Will, it appears that some of his children approved the decision to have Williams cryogenically frozen. It seems that the motivation in part was a result of the vast amount of literature read by Williams’ son including The Prospect of Immortality which promotes that the “freezer always trumped the grave”. In addition, after his passing, his children produced a note signed by Williams and dated November 2, 2000 that his children “…and Dad all agree to be put into bio-statis after we die. This is what we want, to be able to be together in the future, even if it is only a chance”. Nonetheless, it remains unclear as to what Williams actually wanted.
Upon the passing of Williams, his body was flown to a cryogenics facility where Williams head ($50,000) and body ($120,000) were separately frozen and stored.
As a result of these actions, one of Williams children commenced a petition seeking the return of her father’s body to comply with the wishes set out in the Last Will. This claim was later withdrawn and to this day, Williams body remains frozen.
At this point, any Ontario Estates lawyer is probably reminding themselves that in Ontario, burial instructions in a Last Will are merely wishes and not binding. As a refresher, see this Hull & Hull blog with respect to the burial decisions surrounding Nelson Mandela.
Also of interest, it appears that Williams created an insurance trust for the benefit of his children only to be paid on the 10th anniversary of his death. This trust has now been dissolved.
At present, the City of Toronto can provide help with funeral costs to Toronto residents who do not have enough funds in their estate to fully cover funeral expenses.
The program provides assistance for funeral services, burial services or cremation services. With respect to funeral services, the program can pay for the transfer of the body. If there is to be a burial, the program can pay for the purchase of a burial lot, or if the deceased owned a lot, can pay for the opening and closing of the grave. If there is to be a cremation, the program can pay for the cremation, and a standard urn, and the cost of scattering the remains in a cemetery.
Eligibility is based on the financial situation of the deceased and his or her spouse at the time of death. A caseworker will be assigned, who assesses the assets, income, RRSPs and life insurance of the deceased.
If the deceased person was on Ontario Works, or ODSP, the funeral home can assist in obtaining benefits. (The Province of Ontario can also provides assistance to those on ODSP or Ontario Works.) If the deceased was not on Ontario Works or ODSP, the family or estate trustee should contact the City of Toronto’s Employment and Social Services office. The Employment and Social Services office must be contacted, and must authorize services before a contract is signed with the funeral home or cemetery.
For more information, see the City’s website, here, or call 416.392.1666.
Thanks for reading.
Paul E. Trudelle – Click here for more information on Paul Trudelle.
In a prior blog by Paul Trudelle, a partner at Hull & Hull LLP, he explained the decision of Rooney Estate v. Stewart Estate (2007). In Rooney Estate v. Stewart Estate, the court highlighted some of the roles the Estate Trustee and the estate solicitor and held responsible for including, among other things, arranging for the funeral and disposition of remains.
Arranging for the funeral and disposition of remains can be burdensome, especially if the estate trustee was related to the Deceased. This task becomes even more daunting when they are dealing with the expenses of a funeral in which case, fewer are in the mood to bargain. Regrettably, this leads many spending more then they have to.
I recently came across an interesting article, How to Cut Funeral Costs, which was published in The Wall Street Journal. Under this article, the author provides us with a few tips on how to keep costs reasonable when arranging a funeral service:
1. Learn your Rights: Funeral homes are prohibited from charging certain fees, and there may be a requirement that compels funeral homes to provide a written fee list upon request
2. Pre-plan: “Have a conversation with your family about what you want and what’s going to be meaningful to them.”
3. Consider pre-owned plots: Purchasing a pre-owned plot has always been a common practice; but the purchaser has moved out of the area where his plot is purchased.
4. Compare Funeral Home Prices: it’s worthwhile to shop around. Prices vary from one home to another
Thank you for reading,
Rick Bickhram – Click here for more information on Rick Bickhram.
Computers have become a staple in the lives of human beings, such that it is difficult to imagine that there was a point in time when they did not exist. In an effort to remain current with technology, some funeral homes have incorporated the use of technology in how loved ones say their final farewells.
The Toronto Star recently featured an article about a funeral home that allows distant loved ones to say goodbye by watching the funeral service being streamed over the internet. It sounds eerie, and certainly, there will always be concerns about internet security, but for Brantford trooper Larry Zuidema Rudd, who died when a roadside bomb exploded, having an online funeral service allowed more then 40 of his colleagues in Afghanistan to pay their final respects from their distant base.
The so-called “sympathy casts,” have been growing in popularity. Helen Zuidema, the mother of our fallen solider Zuidema Rudd, says that the sympathy casts have “brought our family together without them having to come here … they’re still talking about it months later.” Zuidema still scans the funeral site, along with its many photos, tributes and messages, about once a week. “It brings back a lot of memories that you kind of forget when you are grieving,” says Zuidema.
For funeral homes, embracing the advances of technology has created an appreciation amongst loved ones, faraway friends and relatives, who can now be included in saying their final farewell.
I conclude my blog week by writing about the late Michael Jackson who was finally laid to rest on September 3, 2009. Ten long weeks after his death, Michael Jackson’s coffin was placed in a mausoleum in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park, which is located outside of Los Angeles.
If reports are to be believed, his body has been placed in the Holly Terrace, which is a large hall at the centre of Forest Lawn’s monolithic grounds. Although the fascination of Michael Jackson will continue long after his death, the mausoleum is policed by private guards and is rumoured to be among the highest security resting places in the world.
There have been reports indicating that the price of grave-plots close to Michael Jackson’s tomb have gone up $2,000 – $3,000 in value since Michael Jackson joined the neighbourhood.
Some reports have indicated that some private parties have asked for substantially more, with one person rumoured to have asked for $34,000 for a double unit inside of the Michael Jackson mausoleum. Even after death, Michael is still making headlines, this time in the cemetery world.
Thank you for reading and I hope you have an enjoyable weekend!
Rick Bickhram – Click here for more information on Rick Bickhram.