Tag: pecore v. pecore
Many people are aware of the presumption which was confirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada in Pecore v. Pecore that assets which are held jointly between the deceased and certain individuals (including their adult children) are presumed to be held by the surviving joint owner on a resulting trust for the deceased owner’s estate unless they can rebut the presumption and show evidence that the deceased intended them to receive the property by right of survivorship. While the application of such a presumption is clear when the property is owned jointly between a parent and an adult child, what about when the property is owned jointly between two married spouses? Does a similar presumption to that in Pecore apply, such that the surviving spouse is forced to show that the deceased spouse intended them to receive the asset upon their death, failing which it is presumed to form part of the deceased spouse’s estate?
The common law presumption that joint assets are held on a resulting trust for the benefit of the deceased owner’s estate has been altered in Ontario as it relates to married spouses by the Family Law Act. Section 14 of the Family Law Act provides:
“The rule of law applying a presumption of a resulting trust shall be applied in questions of the ownership of property between spouses, as if they were not marries, except that,
(a) the fact that property is held in the name of spouses as joint tenants is proof, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, that the spouses are intended to own the property as joint tenants; and
(b) money on deposit in the name of both spouses shall be deemed to be in the name of the spouses as joint tenants for the purposes of clause (a).”
As a result of section 14 of the Family Law Act, property which is held jointly between two married spouses is presumed to pass to the surviving spouse by right of survivorship. That being said, it is a rebuttable presumption, such that if there is evidence that the deceased spouse did not intend the property to pass to the surviving spouse upon death, the deceased spouse’s estate could seek a declaration that the asset in question is held on a resulting trust for the benefit of the deceased spouse’s estate. Section 14 of the Family Law Act effectively reverses the presumption as described in Pecore in the case of married spouses, whereby property held jointly between two married spouses is presumed to pass to the surviving spouse by right of survivorship unless there is evidence to the contrary such that the presumption can be rebutted.
Notably, section 14 of the Family Law Act only reverses the presumption as it relates to married spouses. As a result, an argument could be raised that in circumstances where common law spouses own property jointly, that the standard presumption as confirmed by Pecore would apply, such that the surviving common law spouse is presumed to hold the asset on a resulting trust for the benefit of the deceased spouse’s estate unless they can show evidence to rebut the presumption.
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Adult children of aging parents are often faced with important responsibilities. Ensuring that parents are adequately cared for is a task that many children lovingly undertake. As highlighted in this article in Forbes, key substitute decision planning ensures that the transition from independence to dependence, proceeds as smoothly as possible. Such steps should be taken immediately, and prior to the onset of dementia, or other incapacitating disorders, to ensure that one’s ability to provide instructions is unequivocal.
A power of attorney is a legal document that gives someone else the right to act on the grantor’s behalf. With the onset of incapacity, not only may the understanding of finances become increasingly difficult, but vulnerability to financial predators may increase. In fact, it is estimated that approximately 10% of the 1.5 million seniors in Ontario experience elder abuse. As such, allowing an incapacitated parent to maintain the authority to sign cheques and manage finances may be dangerous.
To preserve some degree of control, it is often the case that bank accounts are transferred into joint ownership between an adult child and their parent. This is a common practical step taken to ensure that the child who provides care to their parent has sufficient access to their parent’s funds to satisfy expenses arising. However, given the seminal decision in Pecore v. Pecore (SCC), at the time the bank account is transferred into joint ownership, careful notes must be taken to ensure that the evidence of testamentary intention regarding the account is clarified.
Meeting with an experienced lawyer that can explain the types of powers of attorneys, and the associated responsibilities, ensures the adult child has the appropriate powers to assist their parent. As well, the taking of detailed notes by a lawyer or financial institution is a prudent step to avoid possible estate disputes at a later date. While often we focus our efforts on estate planning, substitute decision planning is equally important.
In a recent Ontario decision, Tiedemann v Tiedemann, the court considered whether the deceased had intended to gift to his sister the balance of funds in a joint account held by the both of them.
The sister argued that her brother intended to gift to her the balance of the funds as he did not have a good relationship with his son. The son of the deceased, the sole beneficiary of his estate, contented the funds belonged to the deceased’s estate on the basis of a resulting trust. The court found as the deceased was the only contributor to the account, the sister had to rebut the presumption of a resulting trust and as she was neither his spouse nor his child, she derived no benefit from the presumption of advancement.
Referencing the Supreme Court of Canada decisions of Pecore v. Pecore and Madsen Estate v. Saylor, the court looked at the evidence to determine the deceased’s actual intention. The court found the testimony by the deceased’s lawyer and a bank employee indicated that the deceased was interested in providing his sister with the authority to manage his finances and had not intended to gift her funds.
Weighing the evidence, the court found on a balance of probabilities that the resulting trust had not been rebutted and the intention of the deceased was to have his sister assist with bill payments if he became incapable.
To learn more about joint accounts, listen to Episode HOESP #60 where Ian Hull and Suzana Popovic-Montag discuss Percore v Pecore or read the transcribed version.
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During my talk at Hull & Hull’s recent breakfast held at the Ontario Bar Association offices, I touched on the Pecore v. Pecore, 2007 SCC 17 (“Pecore”) and Madsen Estate v. Saylor, 2007 SCC 18 (“Madsen”) Supreme Court of Canada decisions which essentially did away with the presumption of advancement except as it pertains to minor children. In effect, a child of a deceased who holds assets jointly with the deceased can no longer rely on the presumption that the deceased wanted the child to take the asset at death.
Given that new law, executors not wanting to challenge rights of survivorship by asserting a resulting trust against the surviving account holder should obtain clear and comprehensive releases and indemnities from all beneficiaries. If possible, the beneficiaries should get independent legal advice. Where independent legal advice is feasible the beneficiaries should be encouraged to get it. In any case foregoing a resulting trust claim to joint assets has risks.
The circumstances or even the identities of gift-over beneficiaries can change so much over time that a release or indemnity may not be enforced by the court. New beneficiaries can be born who may be less generously inclined as their predecessors. Family relations can turn to the worst, changing the approach to joint assets.
All in all, a difficult recipe for Executors to be sure.
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On Monday morning Hull & Hull LLP hosted its latest Breakfast Series covering notable issues and salient case-law in the estates area.
Justin W. de Vries spoke first on Pecore v. Pecore,  S.C.J. No. 17 (QL) and Madsen Estate v. Saylor,  S.C.J. No. 18 (QL), two compelling decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada, and in that regard provided an effective and comprehensive analysis of the Court’s new take on the presumption of resulting trust and advancement. Justin’s paper also contains a succinct review of other recent cases you should consider reading.
Craig Vander Zee followed with a discussion about demand promissory notes and the limitation period issues in respect of the enforcement of such notes, particularly in light of the language of the new Limitations Act, S.O. 2002, c. 24. In so doing, Craig reviewed the Court of Appeal decision in Hare v. Hare  O.J. No. 5502. He finished off by informing us about how this issue impacts estate matters and highlighted considerations parties to promissory notes might want to take into account.
Sean Graham ended the presentation with his thoughts on reasons to delay estate distribution. Three important incentives he touched upon are the risks of an increase in resulting trust claims as a result of the Pecore decision, exacerbated by the fact that there may be no limitation period to such claims; foreign tax issues raised by foreign assets and foreign beneficiaries; and dependant support claims.
The presenters’ papers will be made available on our Hull & Hull LLP website. I highly recommend them all.
Have a nice day,
Natalia R. Angelini
Both of the recent Supreme Court of Canada joint account/resulting trust decisions of Pecore v. Pecore,  SCC 17 and Madsen Estate v. Saylor,  SCC 18 involved joint accounts between deceased and child.
It is worth considering whether the decisions will impact cases involving joint accounts between deceased and non-children. (And please note I’m not addressing the impact on situations involving children, which is considerable and needs much more analysis than a blog).
The SCC’s strong statements confirming the presumption of resulting trust do not necessarily change the law as it pertains to non-children situations. However, the rarified source of the decisions could help Estate Trustees asserting resulting trusts over joint accounts with non-children. Consider:
The presumption of resulting trust therefore alters the general practice that a plaintiff (who would be the party challenging the transfer in these cases) bears the legal burden in a civil case. Rather, the onus is on the transferee to rebut the presumption of resulting trust. (Pecore, para 25)
Of course, the presumption of resulting trust means that it will fall to the surviving joint account holder to prove that the transferor intended to gift the right of survivorship to whatever assets are left in the account to the survivor. Otherwise, the assets will be treated as part of the transferor’s estate to be distributed according to the transferor’s will. (Pecore, para 54)
Not really different from pre-existing caselaw, but the SCC rarely enters the realm of Estates and Trusts law. When it does, lawyers pay rapt and lasting attention. Even confirmation of pre-existing common law can have quite an effect.
No doubt every Estate Trustees claiming resulting trusts over joint accounts by a deceased with non-children will be referring to these cases.
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I recently blogged on the Supreme Court of Canada’s decisions in Madsen Estate v. Saylor and Pecore v. Pecore.
Specifically, I discussed the ruling that funds in accounts jointly held between parents and adult children will be presumed to form part of the parent’s estate if the parent dies; i.e., there will be a presumption of a resulting trust.
The adult child must then prove that the deceased parent intended to gift the funds to him or her by naming him or her as a joint owner.
In Pecore, the Supreme Court addresses the evidence that may be used to defeat the presumption and prove that the parent intended to gift the funds in the account, including the following considerations:
- Whether the banking documents pertaining to the account show the parent’s intent;
- Who controlled and used the funds prior to the parent’s death?
- Whether the deceased parent had a power of attorney. If so, this would suggest that the account may not have been held jointly for banking purposes; and
- Who paid the taxes on the account prior to the parent’s death?
The Supreme Court points out that these considerations are fact-sensitive and that the trial judge must consider the totality of the evidence and the weight to be placed on any particular factor.
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As many of the readers will know, joint accounts are a hotly debated topic in estate litigation. When an account is held jointly between two individuals, both hold an equal, undivided share. If one of the joint owners dies, the other is left with the entire interest in the account.
Previous decisions on the issue of joint accounts have varied but courts typically approached the issue by presuming that if the account was held jointly between a parent and a child, the parent intended to gift the money to the child (the presumption applied even if the child was an adult and financially independent). It was then up to the challenger to prove otherwise.
In Saylor and Pecore, the Supreme Court essentially reversed the presumption in the case of adult children.
The Supreme Court ruled that because it is very common for elderly parents to hold accounts jointly with adult children for banking purposes, the starting presumption should be in favour of including the funds in the parent’s estate. The adult child will then have the onus of proving that the parent intended to gift the funds to him or her.
In the case of minor children, the old presumption of a gift will still apply, based on the assumption that parents intend to support their minor children.
While the clarity of a final ruling on how to approach joint accounts will likely be welcomed, there may remain some uncertain as to the evidence necessary to rebut the presumption. And hence, more litigation to come.
Have a nice weekend,