This blog was written in collaboration with, and with thanks to Yasmin Vinograd of Merovitz Potechin LLP .
In some cases, an incapable person residing outside of Canada has assets in Canada. Can a guardian appointed outside of Canada have access to the incapable’s Canadian assets? By extension, would a Guardianship Order made outside of Canada be recognized in Ontario?
In Ontario, this scenario is dealt with in the Substitute Decisions Act, 1992 (“SDA”). Section 86 of the SDA provides a mechanism by which orders made by a court outside of Ontario to appoint a guardian of property or of the person may be recognized or “resealed” in Ontario. Subsections of s. 86 specify that:
s.86(1): a foreign order is “an order made by a court outside Ontario that appoints, for a person who is sixteen years of age or older, a person having duties comparable to those of a guardian of property or guardian of the person.”
s.86(2): “Any person may apply to the court for an order resealing a foreign order that was made in a province or territory of Canada or in a prescribed jurisdiction.”
s.86(3): an applicant seeking to have the court reseal the foreign order is required to file a copy of the foreign order, along with a certificate signed by registrar, clerk or other officer of the foreign court stating that the order is unrevoked and is of full effect.
The effect of these provisions is that a guardianship order made by a foreign court will be recognized and enforceable in Ontario.
Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it is not.
I had previously blogged about the possibility of resealing guardianship orders made in other provinces and territories. The issue arises when trying to reseal a guardianship order made outside of Canada. The problem is that Ontario has yet to prescribe any other country as a “prescribed jurisdiction” for the purpose of section 86(2). This begs the question: can the court reseal a foreign guardianship in the absence of the list of prescribed jurisdictions?
When faced with this exact issue in Cariello v Perrella, 2013 ONSC 7605, the court refused to apply section 86 to reseal a guardianship order made in Italy. Justice Mesbur stated:
It seems to me that unless and until Ontario creates a list of “prescribed jurisdictions” there is simply no legislative basis on which I can apply s. 86. This is not a case where the statute inadvertently fails to deal with an issue. Here, the province has simply failed to take the regulatory steps necessary to create a list of prescribed jurisdictions to which s.86 would apply. I have no idea of the province’s intentions in that regard. I fail to see how I can simply assume Ontario would designate Italy as a prescribed jurisdiction when it finally creates a list of prescribed jurisdictions under the SDA. I have no basis to conclude that Ontario has any intention of having s.86 apply to any jurisdiction other than another Canadian province or territory. Section 86 cannot apply.
In light of the Cariello decision, it appears that section 86 and the mechanism it provides cannot be used to reseal an order made by a jurisdiction outside of Canada. What, then, is a guardian to do if the incapable has assets in Canada that need to be accessed?
There are two ways in which this could be addressed.
The first is to bring an application to have the guardianship order recognized as a non-monetary order, pursuant to the Supreme Court of Canada’s decisions of Morguard Investments v De Savoye,  3 SCR 1077 (SCC), Beals v Saldanha, 2003 SCC 72, and Pro Swing Inc v ELTA Golf Inc, 2006 SCC 52. As of now, there is no decision that applied the SCC’s test of real and substantial connection in the context of a guardianship order. It remains to be seen whether an Ontario court would be open to recognizing a guardianship order on that basis and what the Public Guardian and Trustee’s position will be on such an application.
The second option is to commence a new guardianship application in Ontario. The evidence of incapacity in the foreign jurisdiction may be useful in such an application, but it would probably need to be updated to reflect the current status of the incapable and to demonstrate his or her incapacity. The “new” guardianship application will need to conform to Ontario’s requirements under the SDA, including the filing of a Management and/or Guardianship Plan(s), service on required persons, and naming of specific respondents in the notice of application.
The Court of Appeal of British Columbia (the “BCCA”) recently dealt with an appeal from an Order of the British Columbia Supreme Court which declined to exercise jurisdiction by staying a petition for guardianship of an incapable person. This Order also included various terms relating to the person’s care and property.
This appeal dealt with the guardianship of Ms. Dingwall, the mother of both the Appellant and the Respondent.
At all material times, Ms. Dingwall and the Appellant lived in Alberta and the Respondent resided in British Columbia. Between 2010 and 2014, Ms. Dingwall resided for various periods in both Alberta and British Columbia. At the time of this appeal, Ms. Dingwall lived in a care home in British Columbia. She suffered from advanced dementia.
The Alberta Proceedings
On February 5, 2015, the Appellant sought an Order from the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench appointing him as Ms. Dingwall’s guardian and trustee. The Respondent opposed this Order and in September, 2015 filed an Application to move the proceedings to British Columbia. This Application was never heard and the matter continued to be heard in Alberta.
On July 7, 2016, the Court granted the Order sought by the Appellant which appointed him as Ms. Dingwall’s guardian and provided him with the authority to make decisions with respect to Ms. Dingwall’s health care, the carrying on of any legal proceeding not related primarily to Ms. Dingwall’s financial matters and Ms. Dingwall’s personal and real property in Alberta.
The British Columbia Proceedings
A few weeks prior to the Alberta hearing, the Respondent filed a petition with the Supreme Court of British Columbia seeking a declaration that Ms. Dingwall was incapable of managing herself or her affairs due to mental infirmity and an Order appointing her as committee of Ms. Dingwall’s person and Estate. The Appellant opposed the Respondent’s petition by arguing that the Supreme Court of British Columbia lacked jurisdiction.
The Supreme Court of British Columbia asserted jurisdiction because Ms. Dingwall was at the time of the decision, ordinarily resident in British Columbia and because there was a “real and substantial” connection to British Columbia. The Court found that, in this case, both Alberta and British Columbia had jurisdiction.
Despite British Columbia having jurisdiction in this case, the Court found that the Alberta forum was nonetheless more appropriate and cited the following factors in favour of its decision:
- The similarity of the proceedings;
- Alberta having issued a final order; and
- The Respondent having attorned to Alberta’s jurisdiction by opposing the Appellant’s petition.
As a result, the Court stayed the Respondent’s petition but also made several Orders respecting Ms. Dingwall’s care and property. The parties’ costs on a “solicitor client basis” were to be payable by Ms. Dingwall’s Estate.
The Appellant appealed the following Orders made by the Court, other than the stay of the Respondent’s proceedings:
- issuing an Order on the matter after declining to exercise jurisdiction respecting it;
- finding the Court had territorial competence over the matter; and
- awarding solicitor-client costs payable from Ms. Dingwall’s Estate.
The BCCA Decision
The BCCA allowed the appeal and found that the lower Court erred in making Orders concerning the very matter over which it had declined to exercise jurisdiction. The Court noted that a decision to decline jurisdiction over a particular matter renders a judge incapable of deciding issues or making orders as to the substance of that matter.
As a result, the Court set aside the Orders respecting Ms. Dingwall’s care and property. In light of that finding, the Court of Appeal found it unnecessary to deal with the issue of whether British Columbia had territorial competence over this matter, given that the lower Court declined to exercise jurisdiction, in any event.
The Court of Appeal found that the Appellant was entitled to special costs payable by Ms. Dingwall’s Estate and that the Respondent was not entitled to costs.
The full decision can be found here: Pellerin v. Dingwall, 2018 BCCA 110
Thanks for reading.
Although one of the perils of running an estate blog over the past month has been (with apologies to CNN) the risk of over-reporting on the estate of Michael Jackson, the media frenzy has nonetheless served to shine a light on certain aspects of estate planning that otherwise go unnoticed.
A clause appointing a guardian for one’s child(ren) is not always one that younger testators choose to put in their wills. This may in part be due to the statistical unlikelihood of both parents dying before a child reaches the age of eighteen. In such a tragic eventuality, and as Natalia Angelini noted in her recent blog on the subject, the ultimate decision on guardianship is in the court’s discretion.
A recent article posted online by the Canadian Press comments on the difficulty that couples may encounter in trying to agree on a guardian for their child(ren). Some will want a friend; others will insist on a family member. Complicating any decision may be such considerations as the likelihood of the proposed guardian relocating to a foreign jurisdiction or remarrying someone who, in hindsight, may not prove to be a good parent to the children.
It is always a good idea to plan for any statistical anomaly. The Courts will typically respect the choice of the testator and assign great weight to his or her wishes. The alternative of leaving the decision completely unfettered by such wishes is not one that any parent of a young child would want to contemplate.
David M. Smith
Listen to Guardianship in Canada
This week on Hull on Estate and Succession Planning, Suzana Popovic-Montag speaks with Rodney Hull about how the law has changed in Canada as it pertains to the appointment of guardians. Rodney suggests that today’s laws (post-1994) are clearer than they were in the past.
If you have any comments, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment on our blog.
On Tuesday of this week, I blogged on s.35.1 of the Substitute Decisions Act. This section of the Act provides that a guardian of property for an incapable person has an obligation to preserve property that is subject to a specific legacy in the incapable person’s Will unless that property must be used to fund the needs of the incapable person. As I noted, litigation can ensue on the death of the incapable person if a disappointed beneficiary is not in receipt of his or her legacy. The disappointed beneficiary must demonstrate that the guardian knew or ought to have known the contents of the incapable person’s Will. While the Act itself provides an imperative in this regard, it is not at all clear what other evidence would be admissible. Specifically, the notes and records of the solicitor who drew the incapable person’s Will may shed some light on whether the guardian knew of the contents of the Will. The question, of course, is whether such solicitor’s notes are privileged.
In a conventional will challenge, little thought is given to the potentially sticky issue of privilege. Indeed, solicitor’s notes and records are produced as a matter of course when the validity of a Will is challenged. But when the notes are sought, not to challenge the Will but, rather, to establish the knowledge of someone other than the testator as to the contents of the Will, it is not at all clear whether privilege would be waived by the Court.
As a corollary to the entitlement of a beneficiary under a Will to make enquiry under s.35.1, a recent decision which Megan Connolly blogged on supports the obligation of a guardian (who is also an estate trustee) to account to such beneficiaries.
David M. Smith
Section 35 of the Substitute Decisions Act ("Act") states that "a guardian of property shall not dispose of property that the guardian knows is subject to a specific testamentary gift in the incapable person’s will." And under s 33.1 of the Act, a guardian of property needs to make reasonable efforts to determine "whether the incapable person has a Will" and, if so, "what the provisions of the Will are."
Under the authority of these sections of the Act, a beneficiary of a specific testamentary gift can legitimately make enquiry into the actions of the guardian who, more often than not, is also the estate trustee under the Will. Take, for instance, a demonstrative legacy of a bank account at a specific financial institution. If the account is no longer in existence at the date of death, the legacy will usually be subject to ademption: the gift has failed because the account was closed before the date of death. But what if the account was accessed by the guardian either: (i) for his own purposes or (ii) for the care of the incapable person when there where other assets available to fund the care of the incapable person? In such a situation, the beneficiary of the account under the Will may seek redress.
To prove his or her case, the beneficiary will seek an accounting from the guardian in order to ascertain to what extent his or her beneficial entitlement was wrongfully encroached upon in breach of the Act. Given the imperative under s. 33.1 of the Act, it questionable whether the guardian/estate trustee could ever successfully argue ignorance of the terms of the Will as a defence to such claim.
David M. Smith