Tag: Rick Bickhram

12 Apr

The Free and Cued Selective Reminding Test

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We repeatedly hear about the grim details behind Alzheimer’s disease. In a previous blog titled “The Grim Toll of Alzheimer’s, I touched on a reported study called The Rising Tide: The Impact of Dementia in Canadian Society.   This study has cited that as our population continues to age, the number of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease is expected to double to 1.25 million within 30 years. Again, another grim statistic.

Today, I blog on another Alzheimer’s study, which fortunately does not have such grim details. In a recent article, Lesley Ciarula Taylor states that specialists in Rochester, Minnesota have discovered “a cheap and easy memory test can predict who will develop Alzheimer’s disease with almost perfect accuracy.” The Free and Cued Selective Reminding Test is used to distinguish normal aging memory loss from a degenerative brain disease. 

Taylor states, “the cost is very low, much lower than an MRI. The hope is to be able to identify the disease as quickly as possible.”

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s. Diagnosing the likelihood of being vulnerable may not necessarily lead to a cure, but at least specialists in this area can now ask new questions that potentially could lead to different angles on handling this disease.

Thank you for reading,

Rick Bickhram-Click here for more information on Rick Bickhram


16 Mar

Another Family War

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As I have been practising in the area of estate litigation for a few years, I occasionally think that I have seen it all; that every recurring story I hear about a family war tends to lose its originality. Not true. Take for instance a recent story that was posted online in the Telegraph, involving a U.S. estate fight.

Tasha Tudor was from New England and has been described as the “unconventional Martha Stewart.” Ms. Tudor died at the age of 92 following complications from a stroke.  The basis of Ms. Tudor’s estate dispute centers on her decision to leave almost her entire estate to her eldest son, virtually cutting out her three other children. 

The oldest son argues that his late mother intended to cut out his three siblings from her estate because they were estranged from her. One of the siblings, a U.S. Air Force lawyer, who claims he was not estranged from his late mother, has asserted that the 2001 Will is invalid on the basis that his older brother unduly influenced his late mother.

The dispute has gotten so acrimonious between the siblings that they could not even agree what to do with their mother’s ashes. On motion to the Court, it was ordered that Ms. Tudor’s ashes be divided in half, with one-half to be given to the oldest son and the other half to his siblings. Lawyers are now fighting over who is responsible for a snow plough bill!

It is reported that some of the last words by Ms. Tudor were “Oh, will there ever be a cat and dogfight when I die. But I don’t care. I won’t be here to see it.” 

It is often difficult to comprehend the harsh realities of litigation until you step into the shoes of one of the parties. I wonder if Ms. Tudor were alive to witness the severity of this dispute whether she would take back those words?

Thank you for reading

Rick Bickhram

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

17 Feb

The Role of the Children’s Lawyer in Settlements Involving Minors

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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.

Thank you for reading.

Rick Bickhram

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

16 Feb

Unworthy to Inherit

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As most of us return to our offices from a long weekend, I would like to share with you an interesting case, which I read over the weekend and deals with an Application to declare a family member unworthy to inherit. S.R. (Succession de), 2008 QCCS 4015, is a decision released by the Quebec Superior Court.

In, S.R. (Succession de), the Deceased was survived by his spouse and four children.    The Deceased was a savvy businessman who, during his lifetime, was quite successful. In 1995, the Deceased asked a notary to prepare a Will. A draft Will was sent to the Deceased for his review but it appears that he never executed the Will. In 2000, the Deceased was diagnosed with cancer and subsequently died in 2003.

After the Deceased died, the children looked for their father’s Will in the home and at the Deceased’s office with no success. We are given to understand that all of the children, searched, under the bed, every closet, every brief case belonging to the Deceased, but were unable to recover a Will.   

One of the daughters prepared a proposal requesting the siblings to acknowledge that the Deceased promised to transfer a certain property to her. This would have the effect of increasing her entitlement under the Deceased’s estate. Her siblings refused to sign the acknowledgement, which led to the ensuing dispute. The disgruntled daughter, subsequently informed everyone that she had in fact, located a Will of the Deceased in an old briefcase, which was allegedly in the bedroom closet of the Deceased’s residence.

The discovered Will was similar to the draft Will prepared earlier, except that it included two additional provisions which favoured the disgruntled daughter, in the amount of $2.4 million dollars and was apparently executed by two witnesses from New York. 

The disgruntled daughter tried to probate this Will, but it was contested by her siblings and it was ultimately ruled that the Will could not be probated by the Honourable Justice Gagnon. Justice Gagnon held that there were all the sorts of question marks surrounding the validity and execution of the Will. 

After the Application for probate was refused, the disgruntled daughter then produced a document which was a blank cheque allegedly signed by the Deceased and which purported to give the disgruntled daughter her share in a building that she coveted and various other monies for her home. The siblings refused to admit the authenticity of the blank cheque and commenced proceedings against the disgruntled daughter to have her declared unworthy to inherit under the Deceased’s estate. 

Under the section 621 of the Civil Code of Quebec, it states that a person “may be declared unworthy of inheriting where a person is guilty of cruelty towards the deceased, and where the person has concealed, altered or destroyed in bad faith the Will of the deceased, or a person who has hindered the testator in the writing, amending or revoking of their Will.” 

In relying on this provision, the children advocated that the disgruntled should be precluded from inheriting because she concealed and altered, in bad faith the alleged Will of the Deceased. 

The court held that the disgruntled daughter had likely altered the Deceased’s Will, had taken the draft prepared by the notary and added some typewritten additions that benefited her to the detriment of her siblings and mother. The court further held that the disgruntled daughter likely had taken the blank cheque from the Deceased’s home and also forged that after his death.

Accordingly, the disgruntled daughter was declared unworthy to inherit and her claims against the estate were dismissed.

An interesting point, in Ontario we do not have any similar case law or legislation that would actually allow someone to commence a proceeding, seeking to have someone else precluded from receiving their entitlement absent criminal activity such as murder.

Have a great day,

Rick Bickhram

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


08 Sep

Rule 74.15 – Orders for Assistance

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After a long and relaxing weekend, most of us now return to work geared to face the challenges of our week.  I start my blog by discussing the recent issue of the Probater.

The Probater is a quarterly newsletter that is prepared by the lawyers at Hull & Hull LLP and is provided to the community as an information service.  Our most recent newsletter was released in September 2009.  In the September 2009 issue, Jonathan Morse writes about the fundamental principles behind Rules 74 and 75 of The Rules of Civil Procedure, but more particularly focuses his article on the purpose behind Rule 74.15.

Rule 74.15 allows “any person who appears to have a financial interest in an estate” to obtain orders that would assist them in administering an estate. There is an abundance of case law that defines financial interest and clarifies the threshold question as to who may have a financial interest in an estate.

In his article, Jonathan does a good job in explaining the application of such orders and concludes by referring to a recent decision of the Honourable Justice Brown in Barletta v. Donne, which highlights the recent application of Rule 74.15. 

Thank you for reading,


Rick Bickhram


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


12 May

The Distinction Between Bringing Motions and Commencing Proceedings – Hull on Estates #162

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Listen to The Distinction Between Bringing Motions and Commencing Proceedings

This week on Hull on Estates Rick Bickhram and Chris Graham discuss some important distinctions between bringing motions and commencing proceedings in the estates context as opposed to general civil litigation. They look at this in the context of applications, motions and statements of claim.  

If you have any comments, send us an email at hull.lawyers@gmail.com or leave a comment on our blog.



21 Apr

Henson Trusts – Hull on Estates #159

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Listen to Henson Trusts

This week on Hull on Estates, Rick Bickhram and Sarah Fitzpatrick discuss Henson trusts (also called absolute discretionary trusts). They consider the use of such trusts to benefit disabled persons, and how best to protect the assets (typically an inheritance) as well as the right to collect government benefits and assistance."
Feel free to send us an email at hull.lawyers@gmail.com or leave us a comment on the Hull on Estates blog.


04 Mar

Amendments to the Rules of Civil Procedure – Episode #152

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Listen to Amendments to the Rules of Civil Procedure.

This week on Hull on Estates Rick Bickhram and Paul Trudelle discuss the amendments to the rules of civil procedure that have be set out by the government and come into effect on January 1, 2010.
The purpose of these amendments is to provide the civil justice system with a means of being more affordable and accessible.

Feel free to send us an email at hull.laywers@gmail.com or leave us a comment on the Hull on Estates blog.


04 Mar

Amendments to the Rules of Civil Procedure

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In keeping with modern advances in our society, The Honourable Coulter Osborne (former Associate Chief Justice of Ontario), was asked to propose some options that would assist in making our civil justice system more accessible and affordable.  The Honourable Coulter Osborne submitted his findings and recommendations and in December 2008 The Civil Rules Committee filed amendments, which are scheduled to come into effect on January 1, 2010 (amendments can be found here).  It is important to note that there is no transitional stage with respect to the amendments coming into force. 

The following are a few amendments that caught my eye:

1.    Rule 1.04 (1.1) provides that the court shall make orders and give directions that are proportionate to the importance and complexity of issues, and the amount involved, in the proceeding.  

2.    Rule 1.08 will permit the court, on its own initiative, to hear matters by telephone or video conference.  

3.    Pursuant to Rule 20 (summary judgment), the general test to obtain judgment is the moving parties ability to show that there is "no genuine issue for trial".  Rule 20 has now been amended which imposes the burden on the moving party to show that there is "no genuine issue requiring a trial".   

4.    In actions commenced in Toronto, Ottawa and Essex County, mandatory mediations are to take place within 180 days, rather than from 90 days of filing the first defence unless the court orders otherwise.  

5.    Where the discovery tools are likely to be implemented in a litigious matter, Rule 29.1 now requires the parties to agree to a discovery plan before the earlier of 60 days after the close of pleadings or such longer period as agreed.  The discovery plan must be in writing and it must include the intended scope of documentary discovery, taking into account relevance, costs and the importance and complexity of the issues.

6.    With respect to examinations for discovery, regardless of the number of parties or other persons to be examined, no party is allowed to examine for more than seven hours unless the party has obtained the consent of the parties or has obtained a court order.

7.    The monetary jurisdiction of the Small Claims Court will be increased to $25,000.00.

Again, these amendments were made with a view that it would make our civil justice system more accessible and affordable.  For instance, permitting courts to hear matters via telephone or video conference will free up judicial resources, and reduce Lawyers fees.   Increasing the monetary jurisdiction of Small Claims Court to $25,000.00 will provide access to justice for many in need and at the same time eliminate the demanding obligations that are imposed upon parties under the Rules of Civil Procedure.   I will be looking on with interest as these amendments take effect in the new year.

Thank you for reading and have a great day.  



03 Mar

The Appointment of an Estate Trustee During Litigation

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An Estate Trustee During Litigation (“ETDL”) is typically seen as an officer of the court who represents the Deceased.  An ETDL has a wide variety of duties, which fundamentally includes administering assets, and paying the outstanding debts of the Deceased.  The purpose of today’s blog is to consider two Ontario decisions where an application seeking the appointment of an ETDL was rejected and granted, respectively.

Re Lloyd, 24 O.R. (2d) 340, is a 1979 decision by the Ontario Surrogate Court, as it was called.  In this case, the widow of the deceased filed a Notice of Objection challenging the Last Will and Testament of the deceased and sought the appointment of an ETDL.  On the motion, the evidence indicated that the Applicant was unhappy because she was not being kept aware of the status of the assets, but there were no allegations expressing a concern about the preservation of estate assets or that an ETDL was necessary to prevent waste or mismanagement.  In fact, the evidence indicated that the assets of the estate were well managed, and increasing in value.  Accordingly, the Honourable Justice Clements refused the appointment of the ETDL.  

Re Groner Estate, 1994 CarswellOnt 2478, is a decision by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.  In this case, the Applicant filed a Notice of Objection challenging the Last Will and Testament of the Deceased and also sought the appointment of an ETDL.  The Applicant was concerned that the named estate trustee had been administering the estate, despite no legal authority to do so.  The named estate trustee opposed the appointment of an ETDL.  The Honourable Justice Greer held that the size of the estate was large, however the administration of the estate was uncomplicated.  Nevertheless, Justice Greer, expressed concern over the conflict in having the named estate trustee’s lawyers acting as de facto administrator.  Justice Greer held that assets cannot be administered in a vacuum and that the perception of neutrality must be seen.

From an evidentiary point of view, both cases provide insight into what Lawyers should consider when drafting materials seeking the appointment of an ETDL.

Thank you for reading, and have a great day.


Rick Bickhram




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