Tag: international law
Robert Gordon Price began the practice of law in the small northern Ontario mining community of Kirkland Lake in 1952 when he joined his uncle Bruce Williams, and the Williams and Price law firm had its beginning. Bob, as he was known to friends and colleagues would practice law for over 65 years until his passing in Toronto on November 26, 2017 at the age of 92.
In or around the time Bob began practicing law, the International Law Commission began working on the issue of diplomatic and consular relations. After more than ten years of international preparations and after a discussion on the draft articles, countries proceeded to a Conference on Consular Relations, which was attended by delegates of 95 states. The Conference adopted the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations which was signed on 24 April 1963 and came into force on 19 March 1967. Article 37 provides that a country must “without delay” notify consular officers if a person dies while away in another country or has a guardian or trustee appointed over him or her. From this, certain international obligations would flow.
Around the same time, a miner, who was originally from Poland, died in Kirkland Lake. He died without a Will and his family in Poland had to be identified, located, and contacted. Arrangements were made in regard to the funeral, the body, and the estate. No one was quite sure how to proceed given the new treaty obligations, but the Polish Ambassador was put in contact with Bob. For Bob, it was a beginning of a niche law practice on international estates inheritance and heir locate in over 15 countries. Bob soon developed a practice where he was involved with almost all estates in Canada with a connection to Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.
Part of Bob’s legacy are the international relationships that he built over many years. As international relations between countries continue to evolve and change, the relationships Bob established are even more important today.
Today, Hull & Hull LLP is working with Bob’s former colleagues around the world by assisting clients in solving complex and difficult problems involving international estate inheritance matters.
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A recent decision of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Grillo Estate v Grillo, 2015 ONSC 1352, considered an Application for an Order invalidating the holograph Will of Domenico Grillo. The Applicant was the adult daughter of Mr. Grillo, who also had two other adult children. Mr. Grillo had been born in Italy but prior to his death, was domiciled in Ontario. He had family in Italy, namely his sister and her children, and would frequently visit them. One of these such visits was in March 2014, despite the fact that at the time he was very ill.
On July 1, 2014, Mr. Grillo’s niece, Anna (in Italy) called his daughter in Canada, to tell her that Mr. Grillo was very ill. Anna subsequently made several other calls that seemed suspicious to Mr. Grillo’s children. The three children decided to go to Italy to check on their father. However, before they were able to reach him, Mr. Grillo passed away on July 4, 2014. Upon arrival, the children found that many of their father’s possessions were missing from the home he owned and in which he had been staying. Among the missing possessions were his wallet, bank cards, credit cards, passport, and jewellery.
The children were then presented with a document which Anna purported to be a holograph Will executed by Mr. Grillo on May 5, 2014, while he was in Italy. The beneficiaries under this Will were his three adult children, as well as Anna, his niece. Mr. Grillo had executed a prior Will in 1994, under which his three adult children were equal beneficiaries. Mr. Grillo’s children could immediately see that the alleged holograph Will was not written in their father’s handwriting. An Italian handwriting expert also came to the same conclusion.
As this case had an international aspect, the court had to determine whether there was a real and substantial connection to the jurisdiction of Ontario, using the tests laid down in Club Resorts Ltd v Van Breda,  1 S.C.R. 572. The Court found that there was a real and substantial connection, due to the following:
- Notwithstanding that Mr. Grillo was in Italy when he died, he was a resident of Ontario and Rule 17.02(b) and (c) of the Rules of Civil Procedure, R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 194 permits service ex juris in respect of the administration of the estate of a deceased person who was a resident of Ontario, or for the setting aside of a will in respect of personal property in Ontario;
- All presumptive connecting factors generally pointed to a relationship between the subject matter of the litigation and the forum of Ontario such that it would be reasonable to expect that the defendant, in this case Anna, would be called to answer legal proceedings in Ontario;
- As per section 26(2) of the Succession Law Reform Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. S.26, the fact that Mr. Grillo was domiciled in Ontario at the time of his death, means that the law of Ontario will govern the formalities and validity of both the 1994 will and the 2014 will.
Perhaps the most interesting element of this case is that criminal charges had been laid in Italy for various counts of theft, and writing and registering a forged will. In light of this evidence, as well as the evidence from the Applicant and the handwriting expert suggesting that Mr. Grillo had not written the 2014 holograph Will, the Court had little trouble finding that the holograph Will was not valid.
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