Tag: Incapacity

17 Aug

Considerations for Determining the Validity of Powers of Attorney and Appointing Guardians for Property and Personal Care

Sanaya Mistry Capacity, Estate & Trust, Estate Litigation, Guardianship, Litigation, Power of Attorney Tags: , , , , , 0 Comments

In yesterday’s blog, I discussed the recent decision in Rudin-Brown et al v. Brown, 2021 ONSC 3366, focusing on the court’s decision in respect of the admissibility and weight given to the audio recordings of Carolyn Brown’s telephone conversations.

In today’s blog, I discuss the factors considered by the court in (i) determining that the 2016 powers of attorney were invalid, and (ii) declaring Carolyn’s 2009 power of attorney for property to be operative, and (iii) appointing Jeanne and Missy as Carolyn’s co-guardians of the person.

The court applied the factors outlined in  Royal Trust Corporation of Canada v. Saunders,  [2006] OJ No 2291, to determine whether or not Carolyn’s 2016 powers of attorney were executed under suspicious circumstances. Particularly, the court considered the following:

  1. The extent of physical and mental impairment of the grantor around the time the powers of attorney were signed;
  2. Whether the powers of attorney in question constitutes a significant change from the former powers of attorney;
  3. The factual circumstances surrounding the execution of the powers of attorney; and
  4. Whether any grantee was instrumental in the preparation of the powers of attorney.

Note, the consideration of “whether the will in question generally seems to make testamentary sense” does not apply to powers of attorney.

The court noted that, among other things, (i) there was evidence that Carolyn was having memory issues at the time the powers of attorney were signed, (ii) after visiting two law firms without success, Gordon downloaded forms for powers of attorney and some will templates from the internet, and (iii) one of the witnesses to the powers of attorney testified that Carolyn seemed “vaguely puzzled” the day she witnessed Carolyn’s signature and also stated that Carolyn said that Gordon had told her to sign the powers of attorney.

The court concluded that the powers of attorney were executed under suspicious circumstances in respect of capacity and undue influence. The court also concluded that Gordon failed to prove that Carolyn had capacity to execute the powers of attorney and declared the powers of attorney to be invalid. In addition, the court found that Gordon “failed to show that Carolyn signed the powers of attorney as a result of her own “full, free and informed thought” and has failed to rebut the presumption of undue influence arising from his and Carolyn’s relationship” and therefore concluded that “even if Carolyn had the capacity to sign one or both powers of attorney, they are not valid due to undue influence.”

In respect of appointing guardians of property and personal care for Carolyn, the court did not solely rely on Carolyn’s 2009 powers of attorney, but rather entered into a detailed analysis to determine who would be appointed as Carolyn’s guardians. As noted by Justice H. J. Williams,

“In appointing a guardian for property, the court shall consider whether the proposed guardian is the attorney under a continuing power of attorney, the incapable person’s current wishes and the closeness of the applicant’s relationship to the incapable person. Where there is an ongoing valid power of attorney, cases in Ontario and elsewhere have held that the court must first determine whether there is strong evidence of misconduct or neglect on the part of the attorney before the court should ignore the wishes of the donor.”

The court did “not hesitate to find that, in accordance with Carolyn’s 2009 power of attorney for property, Jeanne should be Carolyn’s guardian for property and that Carter should be the alternative attorney.” The court noted that in Carolyn’s 2009 power of attorney for personal care, Carolyn had named Gordon and Missy as her attorneys for personal care. While the court was satisfied that Missy would be able to fulfill the duties of guardian of the person, the court was not satisfied that Gordon would be able to do so for several reasons, some of which are outlined below:

  1. “A guardian must make decisions that are in the incapable person’s best interests”, which Gordon had failed to do consistently for Carolyn.
  2. “A guardian must seek to foster regular personal contact between the incapable person and supportive family members and friends” and Gordon failed to foster Carolyn’s relationships with Missy or Jeanne.
  3. “Gordon did not consult anyone other than Carolyn in preparing his guardianship plan.”
  4. Gordon intended to “discontinue a companion service for Carolyn that had been recommended for her and that she had been receiving and apparently enjoying.” Although Gordon said that “Carolyn does not remember the visits and is unhappy with how much they cost”, the court found that “it is more likely that Gordon was unhappy about the cost.”
  5. The court was also concerned by the fact that Gordon had failed to follow court orders. He failed to comply with Justice Kershman’s “order to stop recording Carolyn’s conversations.” It is important to note that the court found that “it was evident from Gordon’s evidence that he felt justified in ignoring a court order if he did not agree with it.”

In summary, the court concluded that “it is in Carolyn’s best interests for Missy and Jeanne to be jointly appointed as Carolyn’s full guardians of the person.”

Thank you for reading.

Sanaya Mistry

 

15 Jul

What kind of Evidence is needed in an Uncontested Guardianship Application?

Rebecca Rauws Guardianship Tags: , , , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

Guardianship litigation can be messy and upsetting to those involved in such proceedings, particularly when there are multiple family members fighting over who should act as guardian.

It is also possible for a guardianship application to be brought on an uncontested basis, meaning that no one is opposing the appointment of the proposed guardian. That being said, given that the appointment of a guardian is a serious restriction on a person’s liberty, the courts do not take guardianship appointments lightly, and still have strict requirements for evidence, even in uncontested guardianships.

Pursuant to s. 22(1) of the Substitute Decisions Act, 1992 (the “SDA”), and s. 55(1) of the SDA, the court may appoint a guardian of property and/or personal care for a person who is incapable of managing property and/or personal care if, as a result of that incapacity it is necessary for decisions to be made on his or her behalf by a person authorized to do so.

Least Restrictive Course of Action

Sections 22(3) and 55(2) of the SDA provide an important restriction on the court’s ability to appoint a guardian, requiring that a court not appoint a guardian if it is satisfied that the need for decisions to be made will be met by an alternative course of action that is less restrictive of the person’s decision-making rights than the appointment of a guardian.

In particular, if a person has made a power of attorney for property or personal care naming the individual(s) who they wish to make decisions on their behalf in the event of their incapacity, the court may be reluctant to appoint a guardian and override the person’s own choice of a substitute decision-maker. Accordingly, a guardianship application should include evidence as to whether the alleged incapable person has executed powers of attorney, and what efforts the applicant has made to determine whether powers of attorney exist.

It is also important to remember that even if a person is incapable of managing their property or personal care, he or she may still be capable of making a power of attorney in this regard. Allowing a person to name their own substitute decision maker will of course be less restrictive of his or her decision-making rights than the court imposing a guardian on him or her. Accordingly, a person’s capacity to make powers of attorney should always be considered in the context of a guardianship application, and evidence in this regard should be provided to the court.

Furthermore, if a person is capable of naming his or her own attorney by executing powers of attorney, it may be possible to avoid the costs of a guardianship application, which can be significant.

A Finding of Incapacity is Required

There is also a statutory requirement in s. 58(1) of the SDA that the court make a finding of incapacity in order to appoint a guardian. The court will require evidence in support of a finding of incapacity. Most frequently, this will take the form of a capacity assessment by a trained capacity assessor.

Sometimes applicants are hesitant to obtain a capacity assessment of an alleged incapable person, either due to the cost of the assessment, fear of upsetting the person, or some other reason. While these concerns are understandable, it is important that the court be provided with evidence sufficient to allow it to make the finding of incapacity. Otherwise, it will not be able to appoint a guardian. The cost of the capacity assessment will almost certainly be less than the cost of bringing a guardianship application, only to be unsuccessful when the court is unwilling to appoint a guardian without adequate evidence to satisfy it as to incapacity.

A capacity assessment is also useful as it may reveal that an alleged incapable person does have some level of capacity. As noted above, a person may be capable of executing a power of attorney, even if he or she is incapable of managing his or her own property or personal care. In that case, a guardianship application may be able to be avoided altogether.

Thanks for reading,

Rebecca Rauws

 

These other blog posts may also be of interest to you:

22 Apr

What is the Purpose of Section 3 Counsel Under the Substitute Decisions Act, 1992?

Rebecca Rauws Capacity Tags: , , , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

Pursuant to section 3 of the Substitute Decisions Act, 1992 (the “SDA”), if there is a proceeding under the SDA where a person’s capacity is in issue, but they do not have legal representation, the court may direct that the Public Guardian and Trustee (the “PGT”) arrange for legal representation for the person. The person will be deemed to have capacity to instruct counsel. This legal representation is often referred to as “section 3 counsel”.

We have previously blogged about the role of section 3 counsel (for instance, here and here). Section 3 counsel has been described as a safeguard that protects the dignity, privacy, and legal rights of a person who is alleged to be incapable.

Section 3 counsel plays a very important role in proceedings dealing with a person’s capacity, as they allow the person whose capacity, and possibly their rights and liberties, are at issue, to have a voice before the court.

In Singh v Tolton, 2021 ONSC 2528, there was a proceeding relating to the validity of powers of attorney executed by Rajinder Kaur Singh. The PGT proposed that the court consider appointing section 3 counsel for Rajinder. One of Rajinder’s children also requested that section 3 counsel be appointed. One of her other children, Anney, took the position that section 3 counsel was not necessary and raised a concern with the expense of appointing counsel, which cost would be borne by Rajinder.

The court concluded that this was an appropriate situation for the appointment of section 3 counsel. In coming to this conclusion, the court considered the purpose of the SDA, which is to protect the vulnerable. As noted by Justice Strathy, as he then was, in Abrams v Abrams, [2008] O.J. No. 5207, proceedings under the SDA do not seek to balance the interests of the litigants, “but the interests of the person alleged to be incapable as against the interest and duty of the state to protect the vulnerable.” Section 3 is just one of the provisions of the SDA that demonstrate the care that must be taken to protect the dignity, privacy, and legal rights of the individual.

The court in Singh v Tolton also noted that the material before it disclosed a family at odds regarding Rajinder’s personal care. In a situation such as this, there may be a concern that the wishes or best interests of the person whose capacity is in issue will be lost amidst the fighting family members. Section 3 counsel can serve a crucial function in these types of circumstances, by sharing the person’s wishes and instructions with the court.

Thanks for reading,

Rebecca Rauws

 

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09 Mar

Plan Well Guide’s Toolkit for Legal Practitioners: Helping You Help Your Clients Plan for Incapacity

Arielle Di Iulio Capacity, Elder Law, Health / Medical, Power of Attorney Tags: , , , , , 0 Comments

Last year, my colleague Nick Esterbauer blogged about the Plan Well Guide – a free online tool to assist individuals with their advance care planning. An advance care plan sets out how a person wishes to be treated during a serious illness or health crisis. The Plan Well Guide helps users to create a ‘Dear Doctor’ Letter explaining their values and preferences with respect to their future medical care, which can then be given to their physician and substitute decision-makers to ensure that their wishes are known. For a more in-depth look at the Plan Well Guide and the process of creating a Dear Doctor letter, you can read Nick’s blog here.

Recently, the Plan Well Guide launched a new toolkit designed for legal practitioners. This free online toolkit is intended to help lawyers help their clients become better prepared for future serious illness and incapacitation. In addition to various educational resources for both lawyers and their clients, the toolkit includes:

  • a sample power of attorney for personal care;
  • a sample advanced health care directive;
  • a sample personal directive;
  • a sample ‘Dear Doctor’ letter; and
  • a step-by-step guide on how lawyers can incorporate the Plan Well Guide into their practice.

Of course, the sample legal documents contained in the toolkit should be amended to reflect the client’s specific set of circumstances and the laws of the applicable jurisdiction.

What I like most about the Plan Well Guide’s new toolkit is that it highlights the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to advance care planning. An effective advance care plan – that is, a plan which facilitates medical substitute decision-making that is consistent with the incapable person’s actual values and preferences – depends on the collaborative efforts of a person’s lawyers, doctors, and substitute decision-makers. The Plan Well Guide and its new toolkit offer accessible ways for legal professionals, health care professionals, and their clients/patients to coordinate their efforts to make serious illness planning more effective. If a lawyer is interested in improving the quality of future medical decision-making and patient outcomes for their clients, the Plan Well Guide’s toolkit for legal practitioners is certainly worth looking into.

Thanks for reading!

Arielle Di Iulio

26 Oct

Witnessing Requirements for Powers of Attorney

Nick Esterbauer Capacity, Elder Law, Power of Attorney Tags: , , , , , , 0 Comments

In Ontario, a Continuing Power of Attorney for Property or a Power of Attorney for Personal Care must be signed by two witnesses.  As our readers also know, as a result of COVID-19, witnessing and execution requirements for Powers of Attorney in Ontario have been relaxed to facilitate access to incapacity planning during the pandemic.  These provisions have recently been extended to November 21, 2020.  Provided that one witness to a Continuing Power of Attorney for Property or Power of Attorney for Personal Care is a licensee under Ontario’s Law Society Act, the document may be witnessed using audiovisual communication technology and signed in counterpart.  The document does not otherwise need to be witnessed by a lawyer (although, where a lawyer has assisted in the preparation of Powers of Attorney, it will often be most practical for the lawyer and one of his or her staff to witness the client’s execution of the document).

Especially in light of social distancing measures, it is important to keep in mind the restrictions on who can witness incapacity planning documents.  In Ontario, neither a Continuing Power of Attorney for Property nor a Power of Attorney for Personal Care can be witnessed by:

  • the attorney or the attorney’s spouse;
  • the grantor’s spouse;
  • a child of the grantor;
  • a person whose property/personal care is under guardianship; or
  • an individual of less than eighteen years old.

If the lawyer him or herself is being appointed under the document, which is not an uncommon practice, the involvement of a second lawyer or a paralegal in the virtual execution and witnessing of the document(s) may be necessary.

In the Yukon, the witnessing requirements for Powers of Attorney are somewhat different.  As it currently stands, in order for a Continuing Power of Attorney for Property (there referred to as an Enduring Power of Attorney) to be effective, a Certificate of Legal Advice must be provided by a lawyer.  As a result, the lawyer typically witnesses the Power of Attorney, which is not otherwise valid.   While only one witness is required, the lawyer providing the Certificate cannot be the attorney or the attorney’s spouse.

A recent article from Canadian Lawyer reviews proposed changes to Yukon’s Enduring Power of Attorney Act.  One of the key amendments is the replacement of the requirement that a lawyer be involved in witnessing the execution of Continuing Powers of Attorney for Property with the option of the witnessing of such documents by two other individuals.  Similar to the requirements in Ontario, a witness must be an adult and cannot be the spouse of the donor, the attorney, or the spouse of the attorney.

If approved, the recent Yukon Bill will eliminate the necessity that a lawyer be involved in the witnessing of Powers of Attorney to increase access to incapacity planning throughout the territory.

Thank you for reading.

Nick Esterbauer

21 Oct

Growing Concerns for our Aging Population

Suzana Popovic-Montag Power of Attorney Tags: , , , 0 Comments

Canada’s population is rapidly aging. With baby boomers constituting just over one quarter of our population, the percentage of elders in our society is rising at an alarming rate. In 2014, the percentage of seniors north of 65 was 15.6 percent of the population. By 2030 – in the next decade – seniors will make up 23 percent of the Canadian population. With this change in demographics, elder abuse (and financial exploitation in particular) has become somewhat of an epidemic.

Financial exploitation commonly occurs when an attorney for property abuses his/her power afforded by the Power of Attorney (“POA”) document. Executing a POA is a vital component of every estate plan. When properly drafted and with the appropriate understanding of rights, duties and obligations, a POA has the effect of protecting individuals and their heirs against future incapacity. When drafted improperly and without a clear recognition of duties and responsibilities, the consequences can be grave.

Toronto resident, Christine Fisher (“Fisher”), is all too familiar with the devastating impact that POA abuse can have on an individual’s financial situation. In 2016, Fisher was 94 and living independently in her own apartment despite suffering from the beginning stages of Dementia. Fisher ultimately executed a POA appointing an old colleague, Theresa Gardiner (“Gardiner”), as her attorney for property. In her role as attorney, Gardiner immediately moved Fisher from her apartment to a seniors’ residence – a decision that was not viewed favourably by Fisher’s family and long-time friend, Nancy Lewis (“Lewis”). In the coming months, Lewis discovered that Gardiner had been abusing the power granted to her under the POA by misappropriating Fisher’s funds. By breaching her fiduciary duty, Gardiner exacerbated Fisher’s financial situation and improved her own. In an attempt to justify her misconduct, Gardiner told CBC News that Fisher had gifted her the money. In July of 2019, Gardiner was charged with several counts of theft. Most of these charges were withdrawn by the Crown in November of 2019.

Unfortunately, the story of Christine Fisher is not an anomaly. It is a reflection of society’s tendency to overlook and ignore vulnerable elders. Given the substantial risks associated with appointing an inappropriate attorney, lawyers should remain vigilant to possibilities of incapacity, fraud and undue influence prior to creating a POA for a client. Recognizing the warning signs is the first step to protecting this vulnerable population.

Thanks for reading!

Suzana Popovic-Montag & Tori Joseph

28 Aug

Incapacity, Limitation Periods and Litigation Guardians: Complications Galore

Paul Emile Trudelle Litigation Tags: , , , , 0 Comments

Under the Limitations Act, 2002, most actions are subject to a two-year limitation period. However, the limitation period does not run during any time in which the person with the claim is incapable of commencing a proceeding AND not represented by a litigation guardian in relation to the claim. A person is presumed to be capable unless the contrary is proved.

What happens when a claim is commenced, but not all defendants are named? This issue arose in the recent decision of Wood v. David Mitchell et al., 2020 ONSC 4903 (CanLII). There, the plaintiff suffered a stroke. He sued a number of defendants in relation to his medical care. One doctor was referred to in the Statement of Claim, but not named as a party. Three years after the claim was started, the Public Guardian and Trustee was appointed as the plaintiff’s litigation guardian. The PGT moved to add the doctor as a defendant. The doctor moved to strike the claim on the basis of the passage of the limitation period.  The plaintiff resisted, taking the position that the plaintiff did not have capacity when the claim was commenced, and did not have a litigation guardian.

The doctor raised two main points. Firstly, the doctor sought information about communications between the plaintiff and his initial lawyers going to his capacity at the time. Secondly, the doctor argued that the plaintiff was represented initially by a “de facto” litigation guardian, a Mr. McQueen.

The decision addressed these issues from the perspective of a motion to compel answers to questions and further production. The plaintiff had refused to answer questions about his and Mr. McQueen’s communications with his initial lawyers and to produce the lawyers’ file on the basis of relevance and privilege.

At first instance, the Master disallowed the questions. On appeal, the court ordered that the lawyers’ files as they relate to the plaintiff’s capacity and to Mr. McQueen’s dealings with the lawyers must be produced, even if privileged.

The court held that on the first issue, as the plaintiff put his capacity in issue, information that his lawyers had about his capacity was to be produced. The court stated that the “elephant in the room” was “what were the plaintiff’s initial lawyers thinking” when they commenced the claim? Did they believe that the plaintiff had capacity? If so, what was that belief based on?

On the second issue, the court referred to the Court of Appeal decision of Azzeh (Litigation Guardian of) v. Legendre, 2017 ONCA 385 for the proposition that a de facto litigation guardian could recommence the running of the limitation period. In Azzeh, the court held that a person could be considered litigation guardian, even if not formally appointed, if they held themselves out as litigation guardian. In Wood, the court held that the definition of “litigation guardian” might even by broader.

As can be seen, the issues that arise in litigation where the capacity of a party may be in issue can be complex. The courts must walk a fine line of ensuring that the right to sue is not taken away from an incapable person, while ensuring that the rights of third parties, including the right to the protection of limitation periods, are safeguarded.

Thank you for reading.

Paul Trudelle

05 Aug

Decision-making by an Attorney for Personal Care

Rebecca Rauws Power of Attorney Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

The job of being an attorney for personal care for an incapable person is not an easy one. The attorney often has to make difficult decisions regarding an incapable person’s medical care and treatment, personal care, food, clothing, and shelter. A particularly difficult decision that can arise in the case of older adults is the decision of whether an older incapable person should be placed in a retirement or long-term care home.

I recently came across a decision that considered a personal care attorney’s decision to move his mother, Ann, into a long-term care facility. As set out in Corbet v Corbet, 2020 ONSC 4157, prior to the move, Ann had been living with her personal care attorney’s son (Ann’s grandson), and his spouse. The personal care attorney lived in the USA. The grandson and spouse were the defendants to an action brought by the personal care attorney, and the defendants had brought the motion that was dealt with in the decision. The motion sought an order that Ann return to live with the defendants.

The Corbet decision discussed the powers and duties of an attorney for property, as governed by the Substitute Decisions Act, 1992, S.O. 1992, c. 30 (the “SDA”). Section 66 of the SDA provides that a personal care attorney must exercise his or her powers and duties diligently and in good faith. If the attorney knows of prior wishes or instructions of an incapable person, they shall make their decision in accordance with those prior wishes or instructions. If the attorney does not know of a prior wish or instruction, or if it is impossible to make the decision in accordance with the wish or instruction, the attorney shall make the decision in the incapable person’s best interests. Although making a determination of what is in the incapable person’s best interests can be difficult, the SDA does set out the factors that the attorney must consider, as follows:

  • the values and beliefs that the guardian knows the person held when capable and believes the person would still act on if capable;
  • the person’s current wishes, if they can be ascertained; and
  • the following factors:
    • (i) Whether the guardian’s decision is likely to,
      • improve the quality of the person’s life,
      • prevent the quality of the person’s life from deteriorating, or
      • reduce the extent to which, or the rate at which, the quality of the person’s life is likely to deteriorate.
    • (ii) Whether the benefit the person is expected to obtain from the decision outweighs the risk of harm to the person from an alternative decision.

Ultimately, the court determined that it was not prepared to grant the order sought by the defendants. Some of the factors that were determinative included the following:

  1. Ann had entrusted her only son as her attorney for personal care.
  2. The court should not attempt to micromanage an attorney’s day-to-day handling of an incapable person’s affairs unless there is clear evidence the attorney is not acting in good faith.
  3. Before making the decision to move Ann to the long-term care facility, the attorney consulted with Ann’s family doctor, and had a comprehensive assessment of the defendants’ home done by the LHIN case manager.
  4. Although Ann had expressed that she wanted to “go home”, the court found that Ann perceived her home as the home she had shared with her late husband, and not the defendants’ home.
  5. There was no evidence that the personal care attorney failed to consider the best interests criteria as set out above.
  6. There were allegations that the defendants had mistreated or neglected Ann, and that they had misused or misappropriated her money. As a result, it remained to be determined whether they were “supportive family members” with whom the attorney has a duty to consult under the SDA.

Attorneys for personal care would be well-advised to carefully consider their decisions, in light of the guidelines set out in the SDA, and to document their considerations in making decisions on behalf of an incapable person.

Thanks for reading,

Rebecca Rauws

 

These other blog posts may also be of interest:

30 Apr

Incapacity Planning Considerations Specific to COVID-19

Nick Esterbauer Capacity, Elder Law, Power of Attorney Tags: , , , , 0 Comments

Earlier this week, Ian Hull and I spoke at Osgoode Professional Development’s program on Powers of Attorney and Guardianship: Non-Contentious and Contentious Matters.

During the program, in addition to discussing new execution options for wills and powers of attorney, the panel shared its thoughts on a number of considerations relevant to the preparation of powers of attorney during the pandemic, including some of the following:

  • It may now be impractical to permit for decisions regarding personal care or property to be made only jointly by two or more attorneys acting together where the attorneys selected are not members of the same household.
  • In light of ongoing travel restrictions, it may be increasingly important that the selected attorney(s) for property and/or personal care are local.
  • It may be more difficult to access multiple medical professionals (or a specified medical professional) to confirm incapacity during a healthcare crisis.  The provision regarding the circumstances in which a power of attorney is to become effective should accommodate potentially limited access to a specified physician or more medical professionals than necessary.
  • It may be more important than ever to ensure that the original power of attorney documents (and/or copies) are physically accessible to the named attorney(s).
  • The current circumstances present a unique opportunity to assist clients in updating outdated plans and ensuring that powers of attorney are put into place for those who do not have them already.

Even outside of the context of a pandemic, considering practical issues like those set out above when creating or updating an incapacity plan is a worthwhile exercise and may expose potential problems with the plan before it is finalized.

Thank you for reading.

Nick Esterbauer

 

Other blog entries that may be of interest:

26 Aug

Judicial discretion to order passings of accounts

Nick Esterbauer Capacity, Estate & Trust, Passing of Accounts Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

We often encounter situations where the administration of an estate is complicated by the fact that the deceased was married multiple times, and there is a clash between children from a prior relationship and a subsequent spouse (and/or his or her children).  Sometimes, a couple will be closer with one set of children, which may lead to disputes following both of their deaths.  Estate of Ronald Alfred Craymer v Hayward et al, 2019 ONSC 4600, was one such case, in which Joan and Ronald had been closer for much of their 32-year marriage with Joan’s children from a prior marriage.  After Joan and Ronald died in 2016 and 2017, respectively, a dispute arose between their adult children.

While Ronald’s will named his own children as beneficiaries of his estate, his Continuing Power of Attorney or Property (like Joan’s), named Joan’s daughter as alternate attorney for property, should his spouse be unable to act.   Joan had acted as Ronald’s attorney for property from 2006, during which he had suffered a stroke, until her death.  In 2011, Joan had transferred the couple’s matrimonial home, previously held jointly, to herself alone.  During this period, however, there had been no request by Ronald’s children for an accounting.  Joan’s daughter had subsequently acted as Ronald’s attorney for property and as estate trustee for Joan’s estate over the period of approximately eight months between the deaths of Joan and Ronald.

Ronald’s children sought a passing of accounts with respect to the management of their father’s property by Jane and her daughter and, specifically, challenged the change in title to the matrimonial home.  The Court referred to Wall v Shaw, 2018 ONCA 929, in stating that there is no limitation period to compel an accounting.  Accordingly, it considered the only bar to this relief to be laches and acquiescence.  Justice C.F. de Sa commented that the there was nothing improper in the manner in which the plaintiff had sought the accounting and, furthermore, that the delay was not unreasonable in the circumstances.  The Court permitted the claim regarding the matrimonial home to continue, but nevertheless declined to order a passing of  accounts:

…[O]rdering the passing of accounts is discretionary. And in my view, to require an accounting at this point would result in a clear injustice as between the parties.

[Joan’s daughter,] Linda, as Estate Trustee, is hardly in a position to account for Joan’s spending while she was alive. Yet, to require a passing of accounts at this point would subject every line of Joan’s spending (as Attorney for Property) to the court’s scrutiny.  Moreover, as the Estate Trustee, the Defendant would be liable to account for any unexplained expenditures.

Indeed, it is unclear that the spending was spurious given the nature of the relationship between Joan and Ronald. Joan would have been spending the money as his wife as much as his Attorney for Property.  The failure to keep detailed accounts is hardly suspicious given the circumstances here.

…In the circumstances, I will not order a passing of accounts.

This decision is interesting in that it clearly considers the practicality of a passing of accounts and the inability of the deceased attorney’s estate trustee to properly account in the absence of relevant records in determining that it would be unjust to order a passing of accounts, despite there being no other apparent legal reason not to do so.

Thank you for reading.

Nick Esterbauer

 

Other blog entries that may be of interest:

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