Tag: history

30 Jul

Funeral Pre-Planning: Take a Lesson From a Pirate

Paul Emile Trudelle Estate Planning, General Interest Tags: , , 0 Comments

Sailors, and in particular, pirates are often depicted as wearing gold earrings. There are many legends as to why they adopted this particular fashion statement. One has a clearly estate-related basis.

Sailors were often given earrings to commemorate certain sailing milestones, such as crossing the equator or rounding the treacherous Cape Horn. Superstition also played a role, as many believed that gold earrings would improve their eyesight, prevent seasickness or even drowning. Wax was often pressed onto the earrings, which could serve as earplugs when firing a cannon. Another theory is that the gold earrings were just a way for pirates to show off their wealth.

From an estate planning point of view, sailors would wear valuable earrings so that their funerals could be paid for if their bodies washed ashore. If a pirate died on the ship, the value of the earrings could be used to cover the cost of transporting their body back home, so as to avoid a burial at sea (assuming that there is honour amongst thieves, and that the earrings were used as intended).

Actor (non-pirate) Morgan Freeman sports gold earrings. He has been reported as saying that his earrings are worth just enough to pay for a coffin in case he dies in a strange place.

Preplanning a funeral is always a good idea. It alleviates significant stress, both financial and emotional, on those left behind. It also allows the planner to ensure that they are given the burial they want. Take a lesson from a pirate: make a plan.

Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend.

Paul Trudelle

02 Jul

Canada Day, 2021

Paul Emile Trudelle General Interest Tags: , 0 Comments

“July 1, not being a Sunday, is a legal holiday and shall be kept and observed as such throughout Canada under the name of ‘Canada Day’.

When July 1 is a Sunday, July 2 is a legal holiday and shall be kept and observed as such throughout Canada under the name of ‘Canada Day’.”

So mandates ss. 2(1) and (2) of the Holidays Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. H-5.

Canada Day became Canada Day on October 27, 1982. Prior to that, the day was said to be “Dominion Day”, which was officially recognized as a holiday in 1879 by way of The Dominion Day Act, 1879. Before that, the day did not have a name. However a proclamation was issued on June 20, 1868 whereby the Governor General proclaimed: “I do hereby enjoin and call upon all Her Majesty’s loving subjects throughout Canada to join in the due and proper celebration of the said Anniversary [of the forming of the Dominion of Canada] on the said FIRST day of JULY next.”

As Suzana Popovic-Montag observed in her blog of July 1, 2015, Canada Day, is a commemoration of the confederation of Upper Canada, Lower Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Contrasted with the 4th of July celebrations to the south, “Canada Day is less of a celebration of our collective self-assertion to obtain our autonomy by force and more of a celebration of our ability to come together, our ability to work together and even our ability to live together – which is a really nice thing to celebrate.”

That is a wonderful sentiment. However, we still have a lot of work to do on improving our abilities to come together, work together and live together. The job is not done, and Canada faces many issues.

Take some time to celebrate Canada this weekend, and also take some time to contemplate the issues faced by many and the need for all of us to focus on how we can better work, live and come together.

Have a great weekend.

Paul Trudelle

21 May

Victoria Day: Observe it Safely

Paul Emile Trudelle General Interest Tags: , 0 Comments

Once again, I have the pleasure of blogging on the day before the Victoria Day Weekend.

I have blogged twice on Victoria Day and Queen Victoria: once on Queen Victoria fun facts, and once on Queen Victoria’s stockings.

For my third installment, the blog will go, for no particular reason, decidedly darker. In researching for the blog, I came across two terrible Victoria Day tragedies, both with bizarre “Victoria” connections.

(If dark is not your thing this long weekend, please revisit my Victoria Day fun facts. (Although, in reviewing them, many are not so fun, and many are quite tragic.))

Turning to the tragedies:

  • In 1881, on Victoria Day (gasp!), the passenger ferry Victoria (gasp again!!) overturned on the Thames River (not THAT Thames River, but the Thames River, Ontario) near London (not THAT London, but London Ontario). The ferry was bringing picnickers back from a nearby park and was significantly overloaded. Many perished. Then-current fashion added to the tragedy. The Victorian-style (gasp!) dresses that many of the female passengers wore became waterlogged and impeded swimming. The tragedy became known as the Victoria Day Disaster. The Victoria was built from the hull of the burned and sunk Enterprise, which caught fire and sank in 1879. To add to the ominousness of the story of the Victoria, the ferry was involved in a minor collision just a year before the disaster, on Victoria Day, 1880.
  • In 1896, on Victoria Day (gasp!), in Victoria (gasp again!!), B.C., a streetcar overcrowded with Victoria Day revellers crashed through the Point Ellice Bridge and fell into the Upper Harbour. Many perished. A coroner’s jury later determined that the streetcar operating company was responsible as it allowed the streetcar to be loaded with a weight in excess of what the bridge was designed to support. The city was contributorily negligent because it did not properly maintain the bridge and failed to take steps to restrict traffic on the bridge.

Enough disaster. Enjoy your long weekend. Be safe.

Paul Trudelle

12 Feb

It’s A Will! It’s A Testament! It’s a Last Will and Testament!!

Paul Emile Trudelle General Interest, Wills Tags: , , 0 Comments

A recent question on Jeopardy! led me to look into the phrase “last will and testament”.

We all know what a will is. It is a legal document that sets out the testator’s wishes with respect to the disposal of his or her property upon his or her death. A testament is the same thing.

Commonly, a will is referred to as a “last will and testament”. Why the apparent redundancy?

The phrase is a historical reference to a period when English law and French law language were both used for maximum clarity. The phrase is a “legal doublet”. Other legal doublets include “cease and desist”, “part and parcel”, “terms and conditions” and “break and enter”. The list goes on and continues.

Diving deeper, the legal doublet “last will and testament” is an “irreversible binomial”: words that must be used together in a certain order. One would never refer to a “testament and last will”, much as one would never refer to “cheese and macaroni”, “abet and aid” or “void and null”.

Another theory as to why we refer to a “last will and testament” is that, historically, a will dealt with real property while a testament dealt with personal property. This theory has been debunked.

Still another theory is that, historically, lawyers and clerks were paid by the word. Why use one word when you can get paid for several?

Thank you for reading. Have a safe long weekend. As a client told me, stay positive and test negative!

Paul Trudelle

10 Nov

Remembering Victoria Cross Recipients

James Jacuta General Interest Tags: , , 0 Comments

Dunn Street is a familiar street in Toronto’s west end, named after John Henry Dunn (1792 – 1854) who was active in business and politics and was Receiver General of Upper Canada. His son, Lieutenant Alexander Roberts Dunn (1833 – 1868) was the first Canadian born recipient of the Victoria Cross. It was awarded for his bravery during the Charge of the Light Brigade on October 25, 1854, during the Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War.  His will was probated in England as recorded in the England and Wales National Probate Calendar, Index of Wills and Administrations, from March 21, 1871. It was granted to Rosa Douglas (Wife of John Douglas, a General in her Majesty’s Army) of 16 Queen Street May Fair in the county of Middlesex, who was named as a beneficiary.

Alexander Roberts Dunn died in 1868  while on Expedition to Abyssinia. He was killed in unusual circumstances and the location of his grave was not known. His grave was eventually found by Canadian Army Forces during their peacekeeping mission to Ethiopia in 1998-2000. “Found” is not entirely accurate, as they were led to his grave by a group of local children who knew they were from Canada.  The Victoria Cross is the highest award that was previously awarded to individuals from Commonwealth countries. In 1993 Canada established its own Victoria Cross. Dunn’s Victoria Cross Medal has been kept for many years at Upper Canada College, which he attended.  His sword is on display at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.

We shall remember them.

James Jacuta

09 Nov

The Last Will and Testament of an American President

James Jacuta General Interest, Wills Tags: , , 0 Comments

The Presidential election is in the news. Any linkage to wills and estate law would appear to be a difficult connection. Yet, the Last Will and Testament of the first President, George Washington, is interesting in several respects.

In his own orderly handwriting, the will shows the wisdom and depth of understanding his unique life experience gave him. It is a well thought out, personal, and intelligently written document, prepared by an obviously brilliant man who has taken caution to be humble. He prepared it on his own, or as he says, “… no professional character has been consulted, or has had any agency in the draught” of the will.

The will appoints executors, provides for the disposition of his estate, the care of his wife, the release of his slaves, charitable donations to orphans, and the support of education, among other testamentary instructions. George Washington was born on February 22, 1732, in Westmoreland County, Virginia, and died on December 14, 1799, at his home in Mount Vernon, Virginia. He had been the first President of the United States from April 30, 1789, to March 4, 1797.

It is interesting that the last paragraph of the will, written more than two hundred years ago, provides for an arbitration process:

“My Will and direction expressly is, that all disputes (if unhappily any should arise) shall be decided by three impartial and intelligent men, known for their probity and good understanding; two to be chosen by the disputants each having the choice of one and the third by those two. Which three men thus chosen, shall, unfettered by Law, or legal constructions, declare their sense of the Testators intention; and such decision is, to all intents and purposes to be as binding on the Parties as if it had been given in the Supreme Court of the United States.”

His reference to the Supreme Court of the United States is also noteworthy. The court was created by Article III of the Constitution and was established by the 1st Congress through the Judiciary Act of 1789 consisting of the Chief Justice and five associate justices. The position of Chief Justice is the only position fixed by the Constitution. The number of justices is set by Congress and has been amended many times over more than two hundred and thirty years resulting in the current number of nine.

The complete text of the Last Will and Testament of George Washington can be found on many archival and historic websites. The original is housed in the safe of the Fairfax County Courthouse in Fairfax Virginia. It comprises 29 front and back handwritten pages and an additional 15 pages with a detailed property schedule.

Thank you for reading!

James Jacuta


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