Tag: limitation period
Section 38 of the Ontario Trustee Act sets out a two-year limitation period from the date of death for actions by or against executors and administrators. However, as illustrated by a recent decision of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, the equitable doctrine of fraudulent concealment can operate to toll this statutory limitation period.
In Roulston v McKenny, 2016 ONSC 2377, the Estate Trustee of the Deceased’s Estate brought an Application for the directions of the Court as to whether an action against the Estate was statute-barred. The Deceased died on March 20, 2013, and the claim against the Estate was not commenced until September 18, 2015.
The Deceased and his former wife (the “Respondent”) had entered into a separation agreement that required the Deceased to maintain $150,000.00 in life insurance, with the Respondent as the designated beneficiary.
Shortly after the Deceased’s death in March 2013, the Estate Trustee discovered that the Deceased’s life insurance policies had lapsed due to non-payment. However, the Court found that the Estate Trustee initially suggested that the insurance had not lapsed, and then delayed bringing an application for the advice and direction of the Court on the issue until more than two years after the Deceased’s death. The Estate Trustee’s counsel did not advise the Respondent’s counsel of the lapse until September 2013.
In September 2015, less than two years after the Respondent was first advised that the insurance policies may have lapsed, the Respondent sued the Estate to recover the $150,000.00 debt under the separation agreement.
The Respondent argued that the doctrine of fraudulent concealment should apply to toll the limitation period. As set out in the Court of Appeal’s decision in Giroux Estate v Trillium Health Centre, the doctrine of fraudulent concealment operates to forbid a party in a special relationship with a party from using a limitation period for a fraudulent purpose.
In Giroux Estate, the Court of Appeal set out the three criteria to be met for the doctrine to be applied:
- the parties must be engaged in a relationship of a special nature;
- due to the special nature of the relationship, the defendant’s conduct is unconscionable; and
- the defendant conceals the plaintiff’s right of action.
In the present case, given that the insurer would only release information about the Deceased’s insurance policies to the Estate Trustee and the Estate Trustee had “exclusive possession” of the information, the Court concluded that the parties were in a special relationship. The Court also concluded that the Estate Trustee’s conduct was unconscionable, given the special relationship between the parties.
Finally, the Court held that the Estate Trustee’s failure to advise the Respondent of the lapse of the policies had the effect of concealing that the Respondent had a claim against the Estate.
In the result, the Court found that the doctrine of fraudulent concealment applied to toll the limitation period until September 2013, and the Respondent’s claim was thus not statute-barred.
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Umair Abdul Qadir
Section 61(1) of the Succession Law Reform Act (the “SLRA”) provides that an application for dependant’s support must be made within 6 months from the issuance of the Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee (also known as “Probate”).
An application may be made beyond the six-month limitation period, with leave as, s. 61(2) of the SLRA provides the Court with discretion to allow an application to be made by a dependant “at any time with respect to any portion of the estate remaining undistributed at the date of the application”.
Generally, case law has interpreted s. 61(2) to limit any claim made after six months to the remaining, undistributed portion of the estate, and to bar any claim made after the assets have been fully distributed. Paul Trudelle previously blogged on this application of s. 61(2).
The recent decision of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Weigand v. Weigand Estate, 2016 ONSC 6201, deviates from this prior case law, in that it grants leave for an application for support, despite the fact that the assets of the estate had already been distributed.
In that case, the Deceased died on May 5, 2013. He was survived by his common law spouse and three children from a prior marriage. The Deceased left a Will, in which he named his common law spouse the Estate Trustee and sole beneficiary of his Estate. The Estate consisted of the matrimonial home, two promissory notes and the Deceased’s bank accounts.
The common law spouse obtained probate on November 5, 2013 and took steps to administer the Estate. Eleven months after the Estate had been fully administered, two of the Deceased’s three children brought an Application for leave to advance their respective claims for dependant support. They alleged to have been misled by the common law spouse and provided Affidavit evidence, which was corroborated by evidence from their grandfather. Specifically, they alleged that the common law spouse had told them she intended to sell the house and distribute the proceeds equally among the Deceased’s children. They relied on her promise, to their detriment, as the home was subsequently transferred into the common law spouse’s name after the limitation period had expired.
In deciding to grant leave, George J, stated that the discretion to extend (or refuse) is a question of what is equitable between the parties, in all the circumstances (para. 32). He stated that it would be wrong to allow the respondent to rely on the fact that she has distributed the Estate as a basis to not grant an extension and that it would be unconscionable to allow her to defeat a claim by virtue of a passed limitation period (para 34). He also reasoned that it was inconceivable that the language used in s. 61(2) was intended to shield administrators who engage in such behaviour (para 34).
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When will an attorney for property be barred from making a claim for compensation? Is it proper for an attorney to seek compensation after the grantor’s death? The Ontario Superior Court of Justice addressed these issues in its reasons in Armitage v Salvation Army, 2016 ONSC 2043 (Canlii).
Mr. Wiltse died on February 5, 2013. He had named the applicant, Ms. Armitage, as his executor. The only beneficiary under the will was a charity. Ms. Armitage had been appointed as the deceased’s attorney for both property and personal care prior to the deceased passing away. She began acting as his attorney in 2006 upon his admission to a hospital and subsequently thereafter a nursing home. Ms. Armitage had submitted an amount for compensation on September 5, 2013 and proceeded to file a Notice of Application on January 30, 2015. The charity disputed Ms. Armitage’s entitlement to compensation, claiming that she had exceeded the time period within which a claim could be made under the Limitations Act, 2002. Specifically, it claimed that the provisions in the Substitute Decisions Act created a right to compensation each year, from which the two year limitation period began to run at year’s end.
The Court considered whether the use of the word ‘may’ in Section 40 of the Substitute Decisions Act created a corresponding limitation period to the right to claim compensation. Justice T.D Ray concluded that if the legislature had intended to create an annual limitation period, it could have easily used language to do so. Accordingly, the only applicable limitation period was the general two-year limitation period found in the Limitations Act, which was triggered upon Mr. Wiltse’s death.
The Court also considered Ms. Armitage’s reasons for refraining from making a claim until after Mr. Wiltse died. The estate held only modest assets and Mr. Wiltse’s father had lived past 90 years old. It was possible that if Ms. Armitage had claimed compensation, Mr. Wiltse might have lived long enough to not have been able to support himself.
In its reasons, the Court also affirmed the usual practice of an attorney making claims for compensation after a grantor’s death. There was no need to provide evidence of services and expenditures, as the process for this review is found within the Substitute Decisions Act.
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The doctrine of constructive trust was recently applied earlier this year to register a transfer of a parking space to an applicant who entered into an agreement of purchase and sale of a condominium in 1997.
In Chopra v. Vincent, 2015 ONSC 3203, the Applicant Chopra agreed to purchase a condo from the Respondent Vincent on June 30, 1997. The Agreement of Purchase and Sale between the parties expressly provided for the purchase of a condominium unit and a related parking space. Since 1997, the Applicant Chopra lived in the condo unit, parked in the parking space, and paid related expenses such as common area charges and property tax.
18 years later, the Applicant discovered that the lawyers for the vendor and purchaser neglected to include a transfer of the parking space which has a separate PIN from the condominium unit. Once discovered, the Applicant Chopra sought a declaration of his ownership of the parking space in order to sell the parking space along with the condominium unit while the Respondent Vincent could not be located.
The Court found that equitable title to the parking space was transferred to the Applicant, notwithstanding the inadvertence of the legal transfer of title, on the basis that the Applicant had paid the agreed purchase price in full consideration for a transfer of the condominium unit and the parking space.
According to Justice Dunphy,
“The right of a beneficiary of a constructive trust to enforce his or her title as against the trustee is governed by the Real Property Limitations Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. L-15 (the “RPLA”): McConnell v Huxtable, 2014 ONCA 86 (CanLII). Section 2(1)(a) of the Limitations Act, 2002 provides that it does not apply to a proceeding to which the RPLA applies. Under the RPLA, there is a ten year limitation period (RPLA, s. 4) for an action to claim an interest in land. However, where the interest in land claimed is an equitable title under a constructive trust, the limitation period is subject to the principle of discoverability (McConnell v. Huxtable, supra, at para. 53-54) or possibly is governed by s. 5(1) of the RPLA and only begins to run from the time of dispossession (which has not occurred). In either event, there can be no question of the limitation period having run since the applicant has not been dispossessed and only discovered the error in connection with preparing to sell his condominium over the past few months and has acted promptly.”
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Listen to: Hull on Estates #329 – Limitation Periods
Today on Hull on Estates, David Smith and Saman Jaffery discuss the recent Ontario Superior Court of Justice decision in McConnell v. Huxtable. This recent decision considers what limitation period applies in respect of a constructive trust claim in connection with real property in a family law context. As David and Saman discuss, this decision also provides guidance to estate lawyers and practitioners.
If you have any questions, please e-mail us at email@example.com or leave a comment on our blog page.
Click here for more information on Saman Jaffery.
As lawyers well know, all lawsuits must be instituted within the applicable limitation period as a first hurdle to successful litigation. While the time periods within which one must start a claim are clear in the Limitations Act and in other legislation, the time from which those periods start to run is not always so clear and may be a matter for a judge to decide.
In Zurba v. Lakeridge Health Corp. (2010), 99 O.R. (3d) 596 (ON SCJ), the plaintiff fractured his ankle in a way that exposed his bone and internal tissues to grass and dirt in August of 2003. The doctor who initially treated the plaintiff cleaned and dressed the wound with a cast instead of proceeding with the necessary surgery. Significant ongoing infection at the fracture site later caused another doctor to suggest amputation. The plaintiff refused and after lengthy course of surgeries and therapy with no improvement, the plaintiff retained counsel and initiated the law suit. The plaintiff subsequently received an expert medical opinion from an orthopaedic expert that the treating doctor’s care was negligent.
The Ontario Superior Court considered the Limitations Act, 2002 and its applicability with respect to the discoverability of the cause of action. Lauwers, J. found that a plaintiff must not only know of the injury but must also know that someone erred before the cause of action crystallizes and the limitation period commences running.
The Court went on to establish two categories of cases: 1) Where an expert opinion is not necessary to know whether to institute an action because all the material facts are known; and 2) where an expert opinion is required to trigger the limitation period because all material facts cannot be known without one. In Zurba, notwithstanding that the statement of claim was issued before the expert medical report was obtained, the Court found that it could consider the report with respect to discoverability in order to determine when the limitation period began to run.
Sharon Davis – Click here for more information on Sharon Davis.