When dealing with the administration of an estate, there is the possibility that a bequest will be left to a minor, resulting in the need for it to be held in trust until the minor reaches the age of majority. It is also possible to have a situation where the executor named in a will is a minor at the date of death of the testator, pursuant to section 26 of the Estates Act. This will result in a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee being issued to the guardian of the named executor, until he or she turns 18. The guardian acting as executor is called durante minore aetate, which translates to “during the minority”.
Pursuant to section 26 of the Estates Act:
(1) Where a minor is sole executor, administration with the will annexed shall be granted to the guardian of the minor or to such other person as the court thinks fit, until the minor has attained the full age of eighteen years, at which time, and not before, probate of the will may be granted to the minor
(2) The person to whom such administration is granted has the same powers as an administrator has by virtue of an administration granted to an administrator during minority of the next of kin.
The powers of durante minore aetate to act in the place of a minor are not limited. As per Re Cope, (1880), 16 Ch. D. 49 (Eng Ch Div) at 52:
The limit to his administration is no doubt the minority of the person, but there is no other limit. He is an ordinary administrator: he is appointed for the very purpose of getting in the estate, paying the debts, and selling the estate in the usual way; and the property vests in him.
In Monsell v Armstrong, (1872) LR 14 Eq 423 at 426, the court held there is “no distinction between a common administrator durante minore aetate as regards the exercise of a power of sale.” Along with the power of sale, it seems too that an administrator for the use and benefit of a minor may also assent to a legacy and may be sued for the debts of the deceased.
An application for a certificate of appointment for the use and benefit of a minor should be in Form 74.4, 74.4.1, 74.5, or 74.5.1 (forms can be found here) and should include an explanation stating that the executor named in the will is not the applicant due to the minority of the named executor. Once the application is filed, the matter will be referred to a judge. If the judge orders a certificate of appointment of estate trustee with a will, it will include the phrase “Right of (name of minor executor) to be appointed estate trustee on attaining 18 years of age is reserved.”
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Suzana Popovic-Montag blogged last week about the ability of an Estate Trustee to pay funds into court for the benefit of a minor beneficiary in accordance with section 36(6) of the Trustee Act. While the blog provides an excellent summary of the statutory authority for the payment of the funds into court, and of the release from liability of the trustee as it relates to the funds paid into court, one question remains: how do you actually go about paying the funds “into court”?
In Ontario, funds that are “paid into court” are payable to the Accountant of the Superior Court of Justice, a branch of the Ministry of the Attorney General. In Toronto, the Accountant of the Superior Court of Justice’s offices are presently located at 595 Bay Street, 8th Floor.
In the case of funds paid into court for a minor beneficiary in accordance with section 36(6) of the Trustee Act, section 36(6.2) of the Trustee Act provides that the person paying the funds into court (i.e. the Estate Trustee) is to deliver to the Accountant of the Superior Court of Justice an affidavit containing the following:
- A statement that the money is being paid into court under subsection 36(6);
- A statement of the facts entitling the minor to the money;
- If the amount being paid into court differs from an amount specified in a document that establishes the minor’s entitlement, an explanation of the difference;
- The minor’s date of birth;
- The full name and postal address of:
- The minor;
- The minor’s parents, or the parent with lawful custody if it is known that only one parent has lawful custody;
- Any person, if known, who has lawful custody of the minor but is not his or her parent; and
- any guardian of property, if known, appointed under section 47 of the Children’s Law Reform Act.
In the event that the funds being paid into court are payable in association with a document (i.e. a Will or a trust), a copy of such a document should be attached as an exhibit to the affidavit in accordance with section 36(6.4) of the Trustee Act.
In summary, in order to pay funds into court in accordance with section 36(6) of the Trustee Act, you should attend at the offices of the Accountant of the Superior Court of Justice with an affidavit containing the information required by section 36(6.2) of the Trustee Act, together with a cheque in the requisite amount. Should the Accountant of the Superior Court of Justice accept the funds to be paid into court, the trustee would enjoy the discharge from liability concerning such funds as contemplated by section 36(6.5) of the Trustee Act.
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I recently read an article composed by The Children’s Lawyer, Debra Stephens, named Minor Settlements: How to Ensure Court Approval. I found this article to be particularly helpful as the article speaks to the role of The Children’s Lawyer in litigious matters and explains the common issues that arise during settlements involving minors.
Fundamentally, it is important to understand the role of The Children’s Lawyer with respect to their involvement in settlements concerning minors, which Ms. Stephens describes as: “The Children’s Lawyer is not a party to the proceeding and is not in an adversarial role with any of the parties. Rather, The Children’s Lawyer acts as an advisor to the court, making recommendations to assist the judge in determining whether to approve the proposed settlement”.
In her article, Ms. Stephens talks about a few issues that commonly arise during settlements involving minors. One of those issues that Ms. Stephens touches on is legal fees. Ms. Stephens states that legal fees are an important factor in determining whether to approve a settlement on behalf of a minor. Factors that are relied on when considering the reasonableness of a solicitor’s account are set out in the Court of Appeal decision Cohen v. Kealey and Blaney and include:
1. time spent;
2. legal complexity;
3. degree of responsibility assumed by the lawyers;
4. monetary value of the matter in issue;
5. the importance of the matters to the client;
6. degree of skill of the lawyers, results achieved;
7. ability of the client to pay; and
8. expectation of the client with respect to the fee.
Also, another factor not mentioned in the case above is ensuring that access to justice is obtained for parties under a disability. I found Ms. Stephens’ article to be particularly useful in my practice and I would certainly recommend it to any practitioner who ordinarily runs into issues involving The Children’s Lawyer.
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Rick Bickhram – Click here for more information on Rick Bickhram.
You would expect that a minor or a party to a proceeding who is declared mentally incapable to manage his/her property and/or personal care (under sections 6 and 45 of the Substitute Decisions Act) would not be able to or required to participate in the litigation. However, this is not so.
Pursuant to Rule 31.03 (5)(b) of the Rules of Civil Procedure, a party under “disability” (defined to include minors and mentally incapable adults) can be examined for discovery if he/she is "competent to give evidence".
The onus of establishing incompetence rests on the party alleging it: Barnes v. Kirk,  2 O.R. 213 (C.A.).
Application of the Rule has led to varying decisions and approaches, a few of which I note below.
· a party under disability may be examined if competent to give evidence subject to the discretion of the court to impose limits where the examination would be oppressive, vexatious or unnecessary: Nyilas v. Janos (1985), 50 C.P.C. 91 (Ont. Master);
· an appointment for discovery should be struck out on the grounds of unsoundness of mind only in the clearest cases – the preferable course is to allow the trial judge to rule on the admissibility of the examination and the credibility of the witness: McGowan v. Haslehurst (1977), 17 O.R. (2d) 440 (H.C.);
· the right to examine a minor for discovery is not absolute – the court should interview the child before exercising its discretion in that regard: Bennett v. Hartemink (1983), 42 C.P.C. 33 (Ont. H.C.);
· a defendant was denied the right to examine a ten-year-old plaintiff where it was found that the examination would result in psychological herm to the child: Kidd v. Lake (1998), 42 O.R. (3d) 312 (Gen. Div.); and
· the court permitted the examination of two plaintiffs (ages 16 and 11) notwithstanding evidence that it might cause serious psychological damage: Nyilas v. Janos, supra.
Have a great day,
In Re Cogan, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice addressed the issue of contingency legal fees. The lawsuit involved the claim of a minor suffering from cerebral palsy, with the plaintiffs alleging that the obstetrician and nurses attending at the child’s birth were negligent.
The case settled for the sum of $12,543,750. The lawyers for the plaintiffs wanted to be paid $4,174,928.45, or roughly 33.33%, on the basis of a contingency fee agreement between them and the minor’s litigation guardian. A contingency fee agreement is an arrangement whereby a lawyer agrees to be paid a percentage of recovery in the lawsuit. Where there is no recovery, the lawyer works for free. Where there is a substantial recovery, the lawyer benefits accordingly.
The Court was asked to rule on whether the contingency fee agreement should be allowed. In its lengthy weighing of both sides, the Court found, among other things, that: The agreement was obtained in a fair way; 2. The agreement was reasonable; 3. The risk to the lawyer of not getting paid and not getting reimbursed for disbursements was high; 4. The case was complex and required significant time commitment and delayed payment; and 5. The result achieved by the lawyer was exceptional.
The Court also commented on the importance of access to justice for vulnerable plaintiffs like the minor and the role contingency agreements can play in fostering that goal.
Therefore, the Court upheld the agreement.
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Read the transcribed version of "Litigation Involving Minors"
In Episode 70 of Hull on Estates, Paul and Sean discuss Court approval of settlements affecting the interests of minors. They refer to Rule 7.02 and 7.08 fo Ontario’s Rules of Civil Procedure as well as the case of Marcoccia (Litigation Guardian of) v. Gill, 2007 CarswellOnt 15 (Ont.S.C.J.).
Click "Continue Reading" for the transcribed version of this podcast.