Tag: News & Events

25 Jun

Ministry of the Attorney General: Returning to Court

Katherine Mazur Estate & Trust, Estate Litigation, Litigation, News & Events, Recently Tags: , , , , 0 Comments

In Ontario the courts have been rapidly adapting their practice and procedures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Beginning on July 6, 2020, the Superior and Ontario Court of Justice will now be further expanding its operations. The date is dependent on approval from the Chief Medical Officer of Ontario.

The Ministry of the Attorney General (“MAG“) has established an incremental plan to prepare courthouses to facilitate the return of full court operations in Ontario. MAG has announced that Phase One will be implemented on July 6, 2020 in a limited number of courthouses and courtrooms.  Court operations will continue to expand with a targeted completion date of November 1, 2020. 

I will briefly highlight some of the takeaways from MAG’s strategy for re-opening:

Phase One:

  • Reopening of 74 courthouses and 149 courtrooms across Ontario;
  • Workplace safety considerations are being implemented throughout courthouse and courtrooms including the installation of plexiglass barriers, hand sanitizer stations, and distance markers. There will also be increased screening procedures for those entering any courthouse and caps on the number of occupants in each room;
  • Each courthouse will have risk assessment conducted so that the proper preventative measures can be put into place;
  • Virtual hearings will continue as we gradually phase back to in-person appearances.

MAG has yet to clarify on the types of in-person court appearances that will be heard during Phase One. Since the declaration of the emergency, the Superior Court of Justice has heard many “urgent” matters, being motions, case conferences, and pre-trials. It is hoped that the types of matters that are to be heard will be expanded as a part of Phase One. 

In the meantime, counsel should continue to utilize and embrace the new technologies offered by the Courts to schedule virtual hearings and integrate them into their regular practice. Rather than waiting for a complete re-opening of the Courts, lawyers should be prepared to “attend” virtual hearings in order to best serve clients and provide them with access to justice. 

Thank you for reading and stay tuned!  

Katherine Mazur

16 Oct

“Hacking” Dementia

Umair Capacity, Elder Law, General Interest, Health / Medical Tags: , , , , , , 0 Comments

Here are some sobering facts: according to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, 747,000 Canadians were living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias in 2011. If nothing changes in Canada, this figure is expected to rise to 1.4 million people by 2031.

Beyond the economic costs, dementia can put immense pressures on family caregivers. According to the Alzheimer Society, family caregivers spent 444 million unpaid hours in 2011 towards the care of someone living with dementia, a number that could rise to 1.2 billion unpaid hours per year by 2040.

Given the increasing prevalence of dementia, many sectors – including the legal community – are thinking about how to improve the quality of life for people with dementia and create a more dementia-capable society. For example, I recently came across an interesting event called DementiaHack, a hackathon that will be taking place in Toronto from November 7 to 9, 2015.

For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, a “hackathon” is an event that allows tech types – such as computer programmers and software developers – to work collaboratively on new projects over a short timeframe. Now in its second year, DementiaHack brings together leading medical experts on dementia with developers and designers, challenging them to develop new and innovative products to address the needs of individuals living with dementia, as well as family caregivers, institutional caregivers and researchers.

For this year’s event, hackathon teams will work intensively over the weekend to develop innovative solutions to the challenges of dementia. The weekend will culminate in science fair demos on Sunday, November 8. Then, on November 9, the hackathon finalists will show off their wares to an audience of potential investors and customers. The most successful teams will be eligible to receive a number of different prizes, including a grand prize that consists of a business trip to the United Kingdom to pitch their project at a health conference.

It is exciting to see the work that is being done to support the needs of people living with dementia. If you are interested in learning more about DementiaHack, visit their website for more information about this year’s event. And be sure to check out the Youtube video for the demonstration for last year’s grand prize winner, CareUmbrella, a project that used smartphones and Near Field Communication (NFC) tags to help improve the lived experience of people living with dementia.

Thank you for reading and have a great weekend.

Umair Abdul Qadir

12 Jul

World Cup Over: Spanish, Employers Rejoice

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While returning to the office after a meeting Wednesday afternoon, I couldn’t help but notice how many people were watching the Spanish defeat the Germans on the giant movie projectors set up in Toronto’s underground labyrinth (for non-Torontonians: the major downtown subway stops, shopping centers and towers are connected by an underground network of tunnels and food courts).  The scene was replicated all along my journey.  What I did not see were the weeping business owners, but they must be out there.

According to this AP article, and this similar article, the World Cup will cost the German economy US$8 billion (0.27% GDP), Brazil shuts down, and as for Italy: when Italian FIAT autoworkers went on strike, by sheer coincidence the timing was 30 minutes before game time (did management even notice?); the issue was whether the workers could watch the game.  The World Cup is the fourth largest sapper of the US economy because of afternoon timing not popularity (March Madness NCAA basketball is tops).

Congrats to the Spanish champions.

Have a great and productive week,

Christopher M.B. Graham – Click here for more information on Chris Graham.


07 May

“Dead Weight” or “Dead Air” – not sure which play on words is more apt in this case…

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The Sunday Times recently reported that two women were arrested for trying to push a dead relative strapped to a wheelchair onto a flight leaving out of Liverpool John Lennon Airport.  The charge – suspicion of failing to give notification of a death.

Police were apparently called when staff at the check-in desk became suspicious about the elderly man in the wheelchair. He was partially hidden behind sunglasses and did not appear to be moving.  While staff were told he was sleeping, it turns out he had been dead for some time.

It was reported that the ladies were likely attempting to evade the complex and costly process of repatriating human remains abroad – bodies being repatriated by air are required to be contained inside hermetically-sealed zinc-lined coffins and kept in the cargo hold for the duration of the journey. It is also necessary for the proper paperwork to be in place.

It is amazing the lengths these ladies went to to avoid abiding by the rules and regulations one has to adhere to before transporting human remains to a foreign country. Truly a bizarre tale!

Have a great weekend,

Natalia R. Angelini – Click here to learn more about Natalia Angelini.

11 Feb

The U.S. Death Tax is Dead! Will it be Resurrected?

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The United State’s federal estate tax, more commonly known as the “Death Tax” is a tax applied to the transfer of a person’s assets at death. It is defined by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service as “a tax on your right to transfer property at your death.”

The Death Tax is paid by the recipients of an inheritance and is due within 9 months of the decedent’s death.   If there is not sufficient cash in the estate, personal property and business assets must be sold to pay the tax. 

As noted in one of our prior blogs, due to changes made by Congress during the George Bush administration back in 2001, the Death Tax was due to fall from 45% to 0% on January 1, 2010.  Many thought this loophole would be addressed before the start of the year. However, due to a Congressional tax standoff, no action was taken in time and the Death Tax has been repealed. However, the repeal is not permanent and the Death Tax is scheduled to be resurrected on January 1, 2010, at a rate of 55% on all assets above $1 million (the current exemption amount). 

It remains to be seen which way the political winds will blow, as Congress will likely address the issue this year. In the interim, estate planners in the U.S. are in uncharted territory, as no one can predict whether/when the Death Tax will be resurrected and if so, whether Congress will make it retroactive to the beginning of the year. This may ultimately be a matter for the courts to decide. Stay tuned!

Bianca La Neve

Bianca V. la Neve – Click here for more information on Bianca La Neve.

05 Jan

New Rules of Court for Ontario

Hull & Hull LLP Continuing Legal Education, Estate & Trust, Litigation, New Years Resolutions, News & Events Tags: , , , , , 0 Comments


As all litigators in the province of Ontario likely know by now, January 1, 2010 ushers in not only a new decade but New Rules of Civil Procedure. The New Rules apply to all matters, regardless of when they were commenced.

The amendments to the Rules effected by Ont. Reg. 438/08 are the most extensive and significant since the Rules were adopted in 1985. The fundamental goal of the reform is to make the civil justice system more affordable and accessible for Ontarians.

Some of the more significant changes are as follows:

Proportionality – In April of 2009 we saw a movement toward proportionality of time and expense with the interests at issue in estate litigation upon the introduction of the New Practice Direction for the Estates List of the Superior Court of Justice in Toronto. New Rule 1.04(1.1) brings this factor into play for litigation in all jurisdictions and mandates that Court Orders and Directions be proportionate to the importance and complexity of issues and amounts at stake.

Summary Judgment – Rule 20 expands the Court’s discretion to assess credibility, weigh evidence, conduct mini-trials with oral evidence, and award substantial indemnity costs against a party acting unreasonably or in bad faith.

Expert Evidence – Experts must provide fair objective and non-partisan opinion, give opinion evidence only on matters that are within their expertise, and assist the Court as reasonably required. This duty to the Court prevails over any obligation experts owe to the party who retained them. Expert reports must be filed 90 days before the pre-trial conference and responding expert reports must be served 60 days prior to the pre-trial conference.  

Discovery – Among the many changes regarding discovery is a new definition of relevance. The phrase “relating to any matter in issue in the action” has been replaced with “relevant to any matter in issue in the action”. This changes the test to one of simple relevance. Proportionality comes into play again in Rule 29.2, which sets out the considerations that must be made in determining questions to be answered or documents to be produced. Parties must agree to a written discovery plan (Rule 29.1) and there is a 7-hour time limit on oral examinations for discovery (R. 31.05.1).

Time – Calculation of time pursuant to Rule 3.01(1)(b) for notice periods of 7 days or less excludes holidays. There are also earlier deadlines for service and filing of materials for motions (Rule 37) Applications (Rule 38) and appeals from interlocutory orders (Rule 61).    

If your New Year’s resolution is to learn the New Rules and their impact on your estates practice, you should attend the OBA Trusts and Estates Section Seminar, "Stay on top of the New Rules of court" on January 6, 2010.

Program Chair, Jane Martin, and speakers,  Mr. Justice David M. Brown and Madam Justice Lois B. Roberts of the Superior Court of Justice, and Hull & Hull’s own Suzana Popovic-Montag, will guide you through the changes and provide an opportunity to ask questions regarding implications for estates practitioners.

For more on this topic see Gary Watson’s summary of the amendments and Marni Pernica’s recent article in OBA’s Deadbeat magazine.  Previous Hull & Hull commentary by Rick Bickhram and Paul Trudelle can be found here and here.

I suspect that following the New Rules is one Resolution you will be sure to keep!

Sharon Davis

Sharon Davis – Click here for more information about Sharon Davis.


23 Nov

Changes to British Columbia’s Wills, Estates and Succession Legislation

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British Columbia’s new Wills, Estates and Succession Act received Royal Assent on October 29, 2009. This new Act is a comprehensive statute designed to modernize and streamline the making of Wills and the administering of estates in British Columbia. 

Changes will include:

  • Introducing a simplified procedure for administering small estates;
  • Using the term “will-maker” instead of “testator”;
  • Incorporating succession law concepts currently found only in case law (such as those that apply to adopted children);
  • Granting the court the power to rectify a Will in certain situations, to ensure that a will-maker’s last wishes are respected; and
  • Abolishing the presumption that a gift given by the will-maker during his/her lifetime to a child is an advancement of a gift in the will – instead, such a gift would take effect according to its terms.

The new Act is expected to come into force sometime in 2011, which will allow time for the public and legal community to review and prepare for the new legislation. 

Wills made before the new Act comes into effect will not be invalidated, but the new Act will apply to the interpretation of existing Wills. This may lead to a flurry of demands to update existing Wills, so that a will-maker’s longstanding wishes are not inadvertently thwarted by the new statute.  More information can be found at www.ag.gov.bc.ca/justice-reform-initiatives.

Thanks for reading,

Bianca La Neve

Bianca V. La Neve – Click here for more information on Bianca La Neve.

19 Oct

Lexpert Zenith Awards

Hull & Hull LLP News & Events Tags: , , , 0 Comments

Last week Lexpert held the inaugural event for its Zenith Awards Celebrating Leading Women Lawyers. In a room sparkling with cool acrylic chairs and brilliant crystal chandeliers, brighter still shone the accomplishments of the 23 extraordinary women who were honoured for their outstanding achievement in the legal profession. Click here to see the list of recipients and to learn more about the Zenith Awards. 

Award winners were surrounded by the women and men who supported them throughout their careers and continue to do so. Navigation of the labyrinth takes dedication, smarts and resolve, true; but a little help can’t hurt every now and then. Support from peers is a gender neutral need that is undiminished by the passage of time or the accumulation of awards. In recognition of the necessary value of that support, at the heart of the Zenith Awards was the dedication of the recipients to mentoring. Honourees were paired with young women who, over the next year, will benefit tremendously from their mentor’s experience, support and network. 

Mentoring is not only a useful “nice-to-have” for Mentees; it is the fundamental component of excellence in the profession. We have a collective obligation to our peers and society to provide the guidance and support required to ensure we continue to flourish as a respected profession.

Many thanks to Lexpert, a Thomson Reuters Business, Editor-in-Chief extraordinaire Jean Cumming, and the incomparable Paula Todd, Emcee, for providing a spectacular evening of celebration.


A little motivation for a "Mentoring Monday" as you start your week!

Sharon Davis

Sharon Davis – Click here for more information on Sharon Davis.

09 Oct

Verdict in Astor Estate Criminal Case

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The 85 year old son of New York socialite, Brooke Astor was convicted yesterday of grand larceny and scheming to fraud. For a background to the proceedings, click here and here.

After a 5 month trial and 12 days of jury deliberations, Anthony D. Marshall was found guilty of 14 charges, including giving himself a pay-rise of $1 million for managing his mother’s finances. He faces a mandatory sentence from 1 to 25 years behind bars. His sentencing is set for December 8, 2009.

The attorney who did the estate planning for Mrs. Astor was also convicted of forgery charges. Click here to read David Smith’s blog on the attorney’s actions.

The prosecution argued that Mrs. Astor’s Alzheimer’s was advanced so far that she could not understand the complex changes to her 2004 Will or other financial decisions that benefitted her son, such as the $1 million salary.

The defence has argued that Mrs. Astor had lucid moments despite her Alzheimer’s and that she gave her only son control of her estate out of love.

The story does not end there. Mr. Marshall may appeal and the question of what will happen to Mrs. Astor’s $180 million estate has not been resolved. A civil case was postponed pending the resolution of the criminal charges against Mr. Marshall. Some of the charitable beneficiaries of the estate sent observers to the criminal trial and it are not clear how evidence it the criminal  trial will impact the civil case.

Whichever Will is eventually probated, Mr. Marshall will receive a large portion of his late mother’s estate.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Diane Vieira

Diane  A. Vieira – Click here for more information on Diane Vieira.

02 Oct

Dying With Dignity

Hull & Hull LLP News & Events Tags: , , , , , 0 Comments

In a captivating article authored by Kent Sepkowitz, an infectious-disease specialist at a Cancer Center in New York City, he recounts the practical difficulties when someone dies at home – doing it yourself can be thorny and chaotic without the administrative help of Hospitals.

Specifically, when someone dies at home, a licensed professional must determine that the person is indeed dead.  While this should be arranged in advance with the doctor, the timing may not ultimately work out.  If no doctor is available, the other option is to call an ambulance…for a dead person.  There are reportedly other annoyances as well, including:

·                    the death certificate must be completed in black ink (using only certain approved diagnoses);

·                    an undertaker needs to be selected; and

·                    law enforcement must be called to establish that no foul play occurred – not an investigation anyone wants to deal with after just losing a loved one.

Mr. Sepkowitz notes that, with the active support of hospice care, savings could come from facilitating the wishes of those who choose to die at home.  He also considers what is likely the more important benefit of assuring tranquility and dignity for the person dying and their family.

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

Natalia Angelini

Natalia Angelini – Click here for more information on Natalia Angelini.


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