Tag: Will Provisions
While the majority of people use their wills to provide for their friends and family after they have passed away, some take their wills as an opportunity to creatively leave their mark in their passing.
In today’s blog, we will look at three cases of bizarre will provisions and their outcomes.
Comedian, Jack Benny was married to his wife, Mary Livingstone, for nearly 50 years. While Jack was known to the public for his television persona of being stingy and terrible at playing the violin, Jack was quite the romantic to Mary. When Jack died in 1974, he left a provision in his will that one red rose was to be delivered to Mary every day for the rest of her life.
In a magazine article written by Mary in memory of Jack, it seems as if Jack’s wishes were carried out. Mary stated that “every day since Jack has gone, the florist has delivered one long-stemmed red rose to my home.”
Real estate investor and hotel owner, Leona Helmsley, died in 2007. Leona was dubbed the “Queen of Mean”. Leona’s will stated that a $12 million trust was to be established for her Maltese dog named “Trouble”. Leona excluded two of her grandchildren from her will but included $10 million for two of her other grandchildren on the condition that they regularly visit their father’s gravesite.
Trouble’s inheritance was reduced to $2 million by the court, with the remaining balance going to Ms. Helmsley’s charitable foundation. While the loss of income may have been upsetting to Trouble, it may also have come as a relief as there were reports that the dog was forced to go into hiding after a reported threat to kidnap her.
Sam Weir, who was a retired lawyer, stipulated in his will that $3,500 was to be held in trust for the Law Society of Upper Canada. He directed that each year, the income from the trust was to be paid to the student who graduated from the Bar Admissions Course with the lowest marks. His reasoning behind this was that he knew many lawyers who became successful by “keeping their lack of knowledge in the dark.”
Sam strongly recommended that the recipient of the funds spend it on a “night on the town.” If the Law Society accepted the gift, Sam provided that it would receive an additional $10,000 to be spent on a series of lectures named the “Weir lectures”.
The Law Society declined the gift on the basis that it was not charitable.
Although adding an unconventional provision in your will might be tempting, doing so is risky as the provision could be declared invalid for a number of reasons such as uncertainty, impossibility of performance, public policy and more. If you do find yourself wanting to add a unique provision in your will such as the testators above, it is best to discuss it with a lawyer. Even retired lawyer, Sam Weir, could have benefited from such a discussion.
Thanks for reading!
Suzana Popovic-Montag and Celine Dookie
To read about some more unconventional wills, check out these blogs:
Earlier this week, we discussed the effect a well drafted separation agreement has on an individual’s estate plan. But what effect does a divorce have?
In most instances, going through a divorce can be stressful and contentious. As a result, necessary changes to an individual’s estate plan may be overlooked. Fortunately, section 17(2) of the Succession Law Reform Act provides divorced couples with some piece of mind:
“Except when a contrary intention appears by the will, where, after the testator makes a will, his or her marriage is terminated by a judgment absolute of divorce or is declared a nullity,
(a) a devise or bequest of a beneficial interest in property to his or her former spouse;
(b) an appointment of his or her former spouse as executor or trustee; and
(c) the conferring of a general or special power of appointment on his or her former spouse,
are revoked and the will shall be construed as if the former spouse had predeceased the testator.”
While the SLRA provides a divorced spouse’s estate with some protection against honouring unintended gifts after divorce, the termination of a marriage is nonetheless a good time for divorced persons to review their estate plans, especially as joint bank accounts and beneficiary designations do not have the benefit of the remedial provisions of the aforementioned statute.
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Listen to The Investment Accounts.
This week on Hull on Estates and Succession Planning, Ian and Suzana conduct a quick lesson on capital encroachment and discuss the role of investment accounts in the passing of accounts.
Today, Rodney Hull Q.C. gives us some practical advice on dealing with actual interpretation problems …
(1) THE RULE IN BROWNE v. MOODY,  A.C. 635 (P.C). – Direction to pay after a life interest – vesting of interest.
(2) THE CLAUSE – “Income from a trust to a son for life, and on son’s death, the fund to be divided among the daughters and granddaughter of the testatrix in equal shares, with gift over in the event that any of the daughters and the granddaughter predecease the testatrix or the son leaving issue, such issue to take the interest to which the person so dying would have been entitled had she survived the testatrix.”
(3) THE FACTS – The testatrix left a son, three daughters and one granddaughter.
(4) THE QUESTION – What interest do the beneficiaries take and when does the interest arise?
(i) On the death of the testatrix?
(ii) At the date of the Will? or
(iii) At some other time?
(5) WHERE TO START RESEARCH –
(i) Theobald on Wills – page 602 – paragraphs 43 – 26.
(ii) Feeney’s Canadian Law of Wills – paragraphs 17.8 – 17.47.
(iii) Sheard, Hull and Fitzpatrick, Canadian Forms of Wills, page 221.
Although Will provisions can be quite unique, assistance often can be sought from similar provisions in other documents. A review of the case law can therefore be of assistance as well.
We’ll deal with another such provision tomorrow.
All the best – Suzana.