I recently read an article that features a discussion of issues relating to seniors living in the “Little Tokyo” neighbourhood of downtown Los Angeles.  In the context of North America’s aging population, the residents of Little Tokyo are becoming increasingly isolated, both socially and linguistically.

Nearly half of L.A.’s senior population was born outside of the United States, with almost one-third unable to communicate well in English.  Over half of the inhabitants of Little Tokyo are “linguistically isolated” and live alone, factors which have the potential to create barriers to accessing healthcare and other services, including legal assistance.

In multicultural cities like L.A. or Toronto, lawyers often encounter clients, both young and old, whose first languages are not English.  It can be helpful to obtain the assistance of an interpreter when we are not fluent in the same language as our clients.  Below, I briefly summarize a couple of points relating to language barriers that may be important for estate lawyers to keep in mind:

  • In Ontario, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice will normally process Certificates of Appointment of Estate Trustee only in respect of wills that are written in one of Canada’s official languages.  Section 125(2)(b) of the Courts of Justice Act otherwise specifies that documents filed in courts written in another language, including wills being admitted to probate, must be accompanied by a certified translation.  Especially if a will can be prepared in English and translated to the client at the time of its execution, this may represent an unnecessary expense and cause for delay in obtaining probate.
  • When working on matters involving the rights of an incapable person, a language barrier may skew the results of a capacity assessment.  The Public Guardian and Trustee’s list of designated capacity assessors includes a number of professionals who are able to conduct assessments in languages other than English, for more accurate results.  In the event that a person is determined to suffer from cognitive issues and the parties seek the appointment of counsel under Section 3 of the Substitute Decisions Act, it is best to propose the appointment of a lawyer who speaks the individual’s native language.

Thank you for reading.

Nick Esterbauer

 

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