Tag: Planning

21 Sep

On the Big Screen: Challenging Dr. Barnes’ Wishes

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The Toronto International Film Festival brought stars to town and brought an estate issue into focus. The Art of the Steal  received accolades as a “thrilling whodunit” about the world-renowned Barnes art collection, valued in the “billions and billions.” Dr. Albert Barnes assembled art in the twenties and housed it in the suburb of Merion, Pennsylvania.

On his death in 1951, Dr. Barnes’ will gave control of the collection to the trustees of Lincoln University, the first black university in the United States. However, according to the film’s producer, in the nineties, a scheme was hatched to permanently remove the collection from Merion that some would later call the heist of the century.

The trustees’ decision to move the exhibit to downtown Philadelphia was met with legal challenges that did not succeed.  On a site called The Barnes Letters  it seems interest groups used the courts to deviate from Dr. Barnes’ express wishes to focus on “an educational organization designed to promulgate a unique way of teaching art appreciation.”

At an opening ceremony for the new site, protestors marked the occasion with signs advocating that Barnes’ “…Will Should Be Honoured.”

Art disputes relating to trusts and foundations are not uncommon. Here in Canada, one example involves a long-standing legal dispute between the U.K. Beaverbrook Foundation which claims that it only loaned art to a New Brunswick gallery – art that originally belonged to New Brunswick newspaper baron Max Aitken.  (See Paul Trudelle’s September 14, 2009 blog).

These examples point to the idea that a testator’s expressed wishes for certain assets may not always be respected. Dr. Barnes wanted his art to stay put, while it was alleged that Lord Beaverbrook’s art was gifted to the people of New Brunswick.

Have a good Monday.

Jonathan Morse

Jonathan Morse – Click here for more information on Jonathan Morse.

10 Sep

The Top 10 Issues To Consider When Planning Your Estate

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Planning your estate feels a lot like preparing for your taxes. It takes time and it’s something the average person hates to turn their mind to. Nevertheless, a solid estate plan is, without a doubt, the best defence against the potential threats to hard earned wealth posed by disgruntled family members or tax authorities.

Recently, I read an article written by Hyman Darling, an Attorney in the State of Massachusetts, in regards to the top 10 issues regarding wills. Mr. Darling states that the top 10 issues that are frequently being considered by the average person are:

1.                  Should I have a Will?

2.                  What kind of Will should I have?

3.                  How does a Will work when I die?

4.                  What if I have a Will but am not satisfied with it?

5.                  Do both spouses need Wills?

6.                  Is it possible to set up a Trust under my Will?

7.                  How can I include a charity in my Will?

8.                  How can a charitable bequest benefit me?

9.                  How much does a Will cost?

10.              How do I go about getting an attorney?

Mr. Darling does an exceptional job at considering each issue and I certainly recommend that everyone considering an estate plan review his article.

Thank you for reading,

Rick Bickhram

Rick Bickhram – Click here for more information on Rick Bickhram.

28 Jun

The Death of a Legend: Michael Jackson leaves loose ends

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Many people, including myself, paused on learning of Michael Jackson’s death.   While I have not searched out his music for several years, his death marks the end of an era. 

Michael Jackson’s music is part of my memory of growing up. I attended his concert in October 1984 at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto.

Of course, in my role as an estate litigator, other thoughts also come to mind. Namely, what issues will arise in untangling Michael Jackson’s estate?

Some of these issues are addressed in a New York Times article. One executive describes the singer’s estate as a "mess".  There are clearly valuable assets, including a 50 percent share of Sony/ATV Music Publishing which owns the rights to more than 200 Beatles songs; this asset alone may be worth more than $500 million.  Apparently these shares were not owned directly by the pop star, but rather by a trust controlled by his mother.  The shares therefore may not fall to Michael Jackson’s  estate but they would be part of his legacy.

The estate has debts too: Neverland cost many millions of dollars to operate annually and in recent years there was a $24.5 million debt against the property. Some commentators estimate Michael Jackson’s overall debt to be $400 million. 

All of these issues – from copyright and real estate assets to Michael Jackson’s personal and business loans – will take many months, if not years, to sort out.   

There were recent plans for a 50-concert comeback in London, England. Apparently fans had paid $90 million which will have to reimbursed and the concert preparations included payments for renovations to the venue as well as advance payments to Michael Jackson. 

As the administration of Michael Jackson’s estate unfolds, I suspect there may be more related topics to be covered in our blog.

Of course, for us regular folks, estate issues that we encounter in our own lives will be simple in comparison to the challenges faced by the Jackson family.  But there are some lessons: careful management of one’s affairs and good planning will lessen the load on named executors and estate trustees. 

Enjoy your Monday. 


12 Jun

A New Twist to Death Planning

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Death planning now includes options like buying your coffin at your favourite retailer, purchasing jewellery keepsakes that hold a loved one’s ashes, and even treating mourners at your funeral to ice cream.

For my final blog of the week, I thought that it would be appropriate to discuss Death Planning. In my limited experience, I recognize an ingredient of success is the ability to adapt to change.   Changing ideas about traditional funeral and burial practices are bringing change to this industry. A recent article in the New York Times by Gabrielle Glasser discusses personalizing your funeral service. 

Despite being in financially weary times, Glasser notes that your funeral is your last chance to be a big spender. Peter Moloney and his six brothers own six funeral homes on Long Island and have catered to customers who wish to have a customized send-off. For instance: “Bike lovers pay an extra $200 or so to take their last ride in a special hearse towed by a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Gardeners select wildflower seed packets to include with their funeral programs. One gentleman wanted to be remembered for comforting his grandchildren with ice cream, so, after the funeral, mourners were greeted by a man in a Good Humor truck, handing out frozen treats.”

I have yet to hear of a funeral home that caters to customized send-offs north of the border, but I presume that we may be a little bit more reluctant to abandon our traditional religious funerals in favour of secular ceremonies.

Before I sign-off, I would like to point out that tonight is the final game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Two of the greats will be playing tonight for Pittsburgh, Sid the Kid and Evgeni Malkin. If you tune in tonight, I am sure that you will get the opportunity to see them outskate the older, and slower Detroit Red Wings. Looking on with anticipation…

Go Pittsburgh!

Rick Bickhram


09 Jun

Succession Planning for Lawyers

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The Ontario Lawyers Gazette recently published a helpful article titled “Succession Planning Protects You and Your Clients”, which reminds licensees of the importance of planning for the future.

According to a 2006 survey, 80% of sole practitioners do not have a plan detailing who would service their clients in the event of their death or incapacity. This is an alarming number of sole practitioners who are putting themselves at unnecessary risk.

Under the provisions of the Law Society Act, the Trustee Services department of the Law Society may intervene in a practitioner’s practice and obtain a variety of orders which would have the effect of winding up the practitioner’s practice in the event that the practitioner became incapacitated or deceased. Margaret Cowtan, manager of Trustee Services states that “it can be a very intrusive and often expensive undertaking if Trustee Services is required to resort to an order to enable a practice to be wound up.” 

One alternative that we can consider in planning for our future is to “name a licensed lawyer as a limited trustee in their wills for the sole purpose of winding up the practice. By appointing another lawyer as a trustee for the purposes of the practice, on death, that lawyer can not only take professional responsibility for the trust account and make appropriate distributions to clients he or she can review client files, continue matters should clients elect to engage them, or return files to clients as appropriate.” We can also give signing authority on the trust account to another lawyer in the event of an emergency. Only licensed lawyers or paralegals are permitted to deal with trust accounts.

If you are interested in learning more about planning for your future, please click the following link which will take you to the Law Society’s Succession Planning Toolkit.

Thank you for reading,

Rick Bickhram

24 Apr

Cottage Plans: An upside to the Economy?

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It’s Friday in late April. The May long weekend and all that cottage fuss is just around the corner.  (I like the cottage, but understandably a lot of people choose the backyard.)

In Ontario, we do not have inheritance tax like they do elsewhere, including the United Kingdom. In some cases, the several-generation home has to be sold to cover a £14,000 tax bill or, in one instance, a painting donated in lieu of inheritance tax of £700,000.

To be certain, we have taxes here. At death, often there is a deemed disposition of property unless steps have been taken in advance. An article from last year provides some thoughts on how one might plan to avoid the situation where the capital gains tax cripples an estate or the next generation.

Apparently, and maybe not surprisingly, the cottage market may be down by about 20% this season. Good news for buyers. Maybe it is also good news for those who are looking at estate planning this year. 

If the goal is to keep a cottage in the family, relative to the previous few years it might be an opportunity to trigger a disposition by transferring the property this season and, presumably, incurring a lower capital gain. Each situation requires specific tax advice. 

The economy is lousy but it might be a chance to avoid financial strain and family tension for the next generation.

Have a safe weekend, wherever you spend it.


20 Apr

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault: The Ultimate Insurance Policy

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The Svalbard Global Seed Vault (SGSV), also known as the Doomsday Vault, is a secure seedbank located on a Norwegian island far within the Arctic Circle. The purpose of the SGSV is ‘to provide insurance against both incremental and catastrophic loss of crop diversity held in traditional seed banks around the world.’

The safety of the world’s 1,400 crop diversity collections has been a concern for many years due to risks including poor agricultural management, equipment failures, war, underfunding and natural disasters. The SGSV provides a duplication of seed samples stored in genebanks worldwide, acting as a sort of agricultural ‘spare tire’, if you will.

The SGSV was entirely funded and built by the Norwegian government and took its first delivery of seeds just over a year ago. The vault is situated 390 feet inside ‘Platåberget’, a sandstone mountain on Spitsbergen Island chosen based on its tectonic inactivity. Inside the vault, the seeds are sealed in specially designed four-ply foil packages, which are then placed inside sealed boxes and stored on shelves inside storage rooms. Refrigeration units (powered by locally mined coal) cool the seeds to –18 degrees Celsius, and in the event of equipment failure, it would take weeks for the temperature to even reach that of the surrounding sandstone. The area’s natural permafrost would further prevent the samples from thawing. Even in worst-case climate change modeling, the vault rooms will remain naturally frozen for up to 200 years. Estimates suggest that the SGSV has the ability to conserve a capacity of over 2 billion seeds for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

Now, how’s that for global estate planning?

Jennifer Hartman, guest blogger

01 Jul

Delegation in Investment Accounts – Hull on Estate and Succession Planning Podcast #119

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Listen to Delegation in Investment Accounts


This week on Hull on Estate and Succession Planning, Ian and Suzana discuss delegation issues that arise when dealing with Investment Accounts and address a listeners question about the family cottage.


Comments? Send us an email at hullandhull@gmail.com, call us on the comment line at 206-457-1985, or leave us a comment on the Hull on Estate and Succession Planning blog.


15 Apr

The Business of Being an Estate Trustee – Hull on Estate and Succession Planning Podcast #108

Hull & Hull LLP Charities, Hull on Estate and Succession Planning, Podcasts, Wills Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

Listen to The Business of Being an Estate Trustee.

This week on Hull on Estate and Succession Planning, Ian and Suzana discuss the business side of being an Estate Trustee and talk about what to do with assets.

Comments? Send us an email at hullandhull@gmail.com, call us on the comment line at 206-457-1985, or leave us a comment on the Hull on Estate and Succession Planning blog.

08 Apr

Sham and Secret Trusts – Hull on Estates #105

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Listen to Sham and Secret Trusts.

This week on Hull on estates, Ian and Suzana discuss Sham and Secret Trusts.

Comments? Send us an email at hull.lawyers@gmail.com, call us on the comment line at 206-350-6636, or leave us a message on the Hull on Estates blog.



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