Tag: wills

24 Mar

Tools to Help Manage your Estates Practice during COVID-19

Rebecca Rauws Estate Planning, In the News Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

We have previously blogged about NoticeConnect’s Canada Will Registry. The Will Registry allows lawyers and law firms to register their clients’ estate planning documents. Other lawyers are then able to search the Registry for the Will of someone who has passed away. The Registry alerts the lawyer who registered the Will of the search, and the lawyer can decide whether to disclose the existence and location of the Will.

On Tuesday, Premier Doug Ford released a list of essential businesses, which included lawyers, meaning that law firms may remain open during the shut-down of non-essential businesses in Ontario. That being said, we are still being encouraged to maintain social distancing, and many of us are working from home to try to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Working from home can present a unique set of challenges for solicitors with an estate planning practice, given the volume of original documents that must be stored, organized, updated, and maintained. Records may be kept partially, or entirely by paper records, which are physically located at the office, and inaccessible from home.

The Will Registry can be a helpful tool in organizing estate planning documents electronically, in order to reduce or eliminate issues with accessing records and information when working remotely.

NoticeConnect recently posted this blog setting out how the Will Registry can help professionals work from home. For instance, one of the tools mentioned is the ability to attach electronic copies of documents, such as Wills, to your registered records. This would allow you, and any staff who have access to your digital Will vault, to access and review estate planning documents. This may be helpful in a situation where a client contacts you seeking advice as to whether their Will needs to be updated; you would not be required to go into the office in order to review the client’s Will. There are also organizational tools, which can help with searching, sorting, and updating your records.

In these uncertain and constantly changing times, it is useful to consider any tools that may help us adapt and maintain our practice.

Thanks for reading and stay safe!

Rebecca Rauws

 

These other blog posts may also be of interest to you:

03 Mar

Hull on Estates #590 – Substantial Compliance vs. Strict Compliance

76admin Hull on Estate and Succession Planning, Hull on Estate and Succession Planning, Hull on Estates, Wills Tags: , , , 0 Comments

In today’s podcast, Paul Trudelle and Kira Domratchev discuss the British Columbia Supreme Court’s decision in Hubschi Estate (Re), 2019 BCSC 2040, and the factors considered by the Court in holding that the document found on the deceased’s computer was a Will in accordance with the curative provisions of the relevant legislation.

Should you have any questions, please email us at webmaster@hullandhull.com or leave a comment on our blog.

Click here for more information on Paul Trudelle.

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25 Feb

Hull on Estates #589 – “Cottage Planning”?

76admin Hull on Estate and Succession Planning, Hull on Estate and Succession Planning, Hull on Estates, Show Notes, Uncategorized, Wills Tags: , , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

In today’s podcast, Stuart Clark and Doreen So discuss the Ontario Court of Appeal’s decision in Donaldson v. Braybrook, 2020 ONCA 66, and what to consider when the ownership of a family cottage was changed to include the children.

Should you have any questions, please email us at webmaster@hullandhull.com or leave a comment on our blog.

Click here for more information on Stuart Clark.

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11 Feb

Hull on Estates #588 – Rights and Limitation on an Attorney under a Power of Attorney

76admin Hull on Estate and Succession Planning, Hull on Estate and Succession Planning, Hull on Estates, Hull on Estates, Uncategorized, Wills Tags: , , , 0 Comments

In today’s podcast, Natalia Angelini and Sydney Osmar discuss the OBA’s Institute Elder Law program recently chaired by Natalia and Kimberly Whaley. Natalia and Sydney delve into the debated issue of whether or not beneficiary designations are testamentary. Tune in to learn how the crowd voted.

Please note that, as a result of technical difficulties, the introduction of this podcast has been cut off.  Sorry for the inconvenience.

Should you have any questions, please email us at webmaster@hullandhull.com or leave a comment on our blog.

Click here for more information on Natalia Angelini.

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30 Jan

What Impact Might MAID Have on a Will Challenge?

Nick Esterbauer Capacity, Estate Litigation, Health / Medical, Wills Tags: , , , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

In preparing my other blogs this week, I spent some time considering the issue of how we might see the increased access to medical assistance in dying (MAID) impact our practice area.  As such, I thought that I would finish off this series of blogs focusing on MAID with a hypothetical question I have not yet encountered in practice, but which is inevitably going to be raised: what impact, if any, does MAID have on a will challenge?

Our regular readers will already be well aware that capacity is task, time, and situation specific.

Presumably, the standard of capacity applying to the decision to access MAID is that required to make other personal care decisions, such as receiving or refusing medical treatment.  Section 45 of the Substitute Decisions Act, 1992, defines incapacity for personal care as follows:

A person is incapable of personal care if the person is not able to understand information that is relevant to making a decision concerning his or her own health care, nutrition, shelter, clothing, hygiene or safety, or is not able to appreciate the reasonably foreseeable consequences of a decision or lack of decision.

I have been unable to find any literature suggesting whether the standard may be somewhat heightened as a result of the significant impact of the decision to actually receive MAID.

The standard for testamentary capacity typically applied remains that set out in the old English authority of Banks v Goodfellow.  While some have suggested that the standard of testamentary capacity be updated, we are generally concerned with the same, well-established criteria:

It is essential to the exercise of such a power that a testator shall understand the nature of the act and its effects; shall understand the extent of the property of which he is disposing; shall be able to comprehend and appreciate the claims to which he ought to give effect; and, with a view to the latter object, that no disorder of the mind shall poison his affections, pervert his sense of right, or prevent the exercise of his natural faculties—that no insane delusion shall influence his will in disposing of his property and bring about a disposal of it which, if the mind had been sound, would not have been made.

While, historically, standards of mental capacity were viewed as hierarchical, recent case law and commentary have strayed from this understanding, instead viewing the different standards of mental capacity as just that: different.  Courts will consider whether an individual understood the nature of the decision being made and appreciated the reasonably foreseeable consequences of their decision.

Consent to MAID must be confirmed very shortly before it is administered, which restriction has been of considerable controversy.  While possessing the capacity to confirm consent to obtain MAID may not correspond to testamentary capacity, it may nevertheless become evidence suggestive of a degree of mental capacity that is valuable (in conjunction with other evidence) in establishing that a last will and testament executed shortly before death is valid.

Whether the fact that MAID has been achieved will be important evidence on a will challenge in support of testamentary capacity or not remains to be seen, but it will be interesting to see how the laws relating to MAID evolve and how incidents of MAID may impact estate law over time.

Thank you for reading,

Nick Esterbauer

21 Jan

Hull on Estates #587 – Re Vaudrey: The Importance of Properly Providing for a Gift of Residue

76admin Hull on Estate and Succession Planning, Hull on Estate and Succession Planning, Hull on Estates, Show Notes, Wills Tags: , , , , 0 Comments

On today’s podcast, Noah Weisberg and Rebecca Rauws discuss the recent decision of Re Vaudrey, 2019 ONSC 7551. In that case, the testator tried to disinherit one of his daughters, but failed to make provision in his Will for the disposition of the residue of his estate in the event that the residuary beneficiaries predeceased him (which they did). Without this, the residue of the testator’s estate was distributed on an intestacy—entirely to the daughter that he had wished to disinherit.

Should you have any questions, please email us at webmaster@hullandhull.com or leave a comment on our blog.

Click here for more information on Noah Weisberg.

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24 Dec

Hull on Estates #586 – Can a word document be a valid Will?

76admin Hull on Estate and Succession Planning, Hull on Estates, Hull on Estates, Podcasts, TOPICS, Wills Tags: , , 0 Comments

In today’s podcast, Jonathon Kappy and Sydney Osmar discuss the difference between strict compliance and substantial compliance regimes regarding the formality of Wills.

Should you have any questions, please email us at webmaster@hullandhull.com or leave a comment on our blog.

Click here for more information on Jonathon Kappy.

Click here for more information on Sydney Osmar.

11 Dec

Muirhead Estate, Re: A Widowhood Clause from 1919

Suzana Popovic-Montag Estate & Trust, Estate Planning, General Interest, Wills Tags: , , 0 Comments

As we head towards the holiday season, it is a good time to think about the past. The weather is drab and the days are short, too, so we have ample opportunity to curl up in cozy chairs – rum and eggnog in hand, perhaps – to read old books, watch history documentaries, or otherwise reminisce of that which came before us. In line with this, in today’s blog we examine a case from 1919, Muirhead Estate, Re, which includes a decision that is both intriguing and continuously relevant for estate planning.

The deceased had left a widowhood clause in his will, by which he sought to discourage his widow from marrying another. Remarry, however, she did, in the event of which the executors of the Muirhead Estate applied to the court for directions as to the construction of the following clause:

“If my wife shall remarry the share hereby bequeathed to her shall revert to my estate and be divided among my said children.”  

The court had to determine if the clause violated public policy, for even in 1919, conditional gifts “in general restraint of marriage” had long been against public policy. It found that there was a distinction between a restraint of marriage and a restraint of remarriage. The former was clearly grounds for voiding a clause, but the latter was legally valid. In particular, restraining the “second marriage of a woman” was an established exception to the public policy rule. As for the second marriages of men, the court found that these may have still fallen under the umbrella of public policy, but it did not explain or elaborate why.

One hundred years hence, we see from cases such as Goodwin and Brown Estate that the decision in Muirhead Estate, Re, is still good law – though the distinction of second marriages of men and women is in all likelihood obsolete. According to the public policy rule, you cannot, through conditions in your will, prevent a beneficiary from marrying; nor can you promote marital breakdown through such conditions. If, however, you think that your widow looks best in perpetual black finery, or you have a distaste for suitors characteristic of Odysseus, the law likely allows for you to include a widowhood clause in your last will.

 

Happy planning – and thank you for reading!

Suzana Popovic-Montag and Devin McMurtry

04 Dec

Is over-involvement by an adult child in preparing a Will or Power of Attorney “suspicious”?

Ian Hull Estate Litigation, Executors and Trustees, Power of Attorney, Wills Tags: , , 0 Comments

One of the ways a Will can be declared invalid is if the court finds that there were suspicious circumstances surrounding the preparation of it. In Graham v. Graham, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice found that significant involvement from the testator/grantor’s child was indicative of suspicious circumstances regarding the preparation of a Will and Power of Attorney (POA).

The Facts

The testator, Jackie, had four children: Tim, Robert, Christine and Steven.

Jackie suffered from terminal cancer. She was hospitalized from November 22, 2015 to December 7, 2015, and again from December 22, 2015 to December 24, 2015, to receive treatment for severe pain.

In mid-December 2015, Robert’s wife, Tammy, searched for and contacted a lawyer to prepare a Will and POA for Jackie. Tammy obtained a Client Information Sheet (CIS) from the lawyer’s office and completed it herself. The lawyer prepared the documents based on this CIS. At Robert’s request, the lawyer went to the hospital to meet Jackie and have her sign the Will and POA. This was the first time Jackie met the lawyer and saw the Will and POA.

Jackie’s Will named Robert as estate trustee and sole beneficiary of her estate. The POA named Robert as Jackie’s sole attorney for property. Robert’s wife, Tammy, was named as the alternate estate trustee and attorney.

On January 4, 2018, Robert used the POA to transfer Jackie’s house to himself as sole owner. Four days later, Jackie died of cancer.

Tim challenged the validity of Jackie’s Will and POA claiming that they were prepared under suspicious circumstances and that Jackie was subject to undue influence by Robert and Tammy.

The Decision

Applying the tests set out in Vout v. Hay and Orfus Estate v. Samuel & Bessie Orfus Family, Justice L. Sheard found that there were suspicious circumstances based on the following facts:

  • Jackie had been in ill health for a long time prior to her death, so it was reasonable to infer she had chosen to die without a will, until Robert’s involvement.
  • Jackie was treated with heavy painkillers on the night and morning of the day she signed the will and POA.
  • Robert and Tammy “orchestrated virtually every aspect of the Will and the POA”, which included searching for a lawyer, providing instructions, arranging for the lawyer to meet Jackie, remaining in Jackie’s room for part of the meeting, and taking part in the discussions concerning the Will and POA.
  • The drafting lawyer relied entirely on Robert and Tammy to provide him with all of the information concerning the Will and POA.

After finding that suspicious circumstances existed, the burden then shifted to Robert to prove that Jackie had testamentary capacity and that she knew and approved of the contents of the Will and POA. Using the test for testamentary capacity as outlined in Banks v. Goodfellow (1870), the court found that Robert could not establish that Jackie had testamentary capacity. In coming to this conclusion, the court considered the following:

  • There was no evidence that Jackie was given the Will or the POA to read or that it was read to her.
  • Although Jackie knew where she was living, there was no evidence to indicate that she had any knowledge or understanding of the monetary value of her house.
  • It was unclear whether Jackie could do more than repeat what she was told.
  • Jackie was confused and/or mistaken in certain beliefs about her son, Tim.
  • The medications that Jackie was taking for her pain left her confused and drowsy.

As a result, the Will and the POA were declared invalid.

Conclusion

Graham v. Graham serves as a cautionary tale for adult children who become too involved in the drafting of their parents Wills and POAs. It warns us that the courts view this type of involvement as suspicious. Moreover, Graham v. Graham suggests that physical impairment can impact a testator’s mental state, thus making them vulnerable.

Thanks for reading!

Ian Hull  and Celine Dookie

28 Nov

A Step Toward Equal Inheritance Rights

Nick Esterbauer Estate & Trust, In the News, Public Policy, Wills Tags: , , , , 0 Comments

A recent decision by an Egyptian court saw the reversal of the trend in following Islamic Sharia inheritance law under which female beneficiaries are entitled to half the interest of their male counterparts.

The claimant, a human rights lawyer, applied to obtain the same rights as her brothers on the death of her father.  Her case was previously dismissed by two courts.

In Egypt, Sharia principles are typically applied unless the parties agree that Christian inheritance laws, which do not favour male beneficiaries over females, instead be followed.  In this case, the claimant and her brothers agreed that the administration of their father’s estate would not be subject to Sharia inheritance rules.

Last year, a proposed law in Tunisia designed to promote equality in respect of inheritances sparked discussion regarding unequal inheritances in a number of jurisdictions including Egypt.  A 2017 survey suggests that over half of Tunisia’s population remains opposed to equal inheritance rights.

It is anticipated that this decision may result in significant change in jurisdictions where Sharia law has historically been applied in respect of personal property, regardless of religion.

Canadian courts have also considered the issue of cultures that may support an estate plan favouring sons over daughters simply on the basis of their gender.  In Grewal v Litt, 2019 BCSC 1154, the daughters of the deceased challenged the Wills left by their parents, who both died in 2016, on the basis that they discriminated against them in favour of their brothers on the basis of their sex.  The four daughters applied under Section 60 of the Wills, Estates and Succession Act, SBC 2009, c 13 (the “WESA“), for the variation of the Wills that directed the payment of $150,000 to each daughter, while the residue of the estates valued at greater than $9 million was left to the two sons.

Justice Adair noted that there was no dispute that the parents owed a moral obligation to their daughters under BC law, and, as the Wills made inadequate provision for them, they should be varied under the WESA.  The Court attempted to resolve the matter by balancing the adequate, just, and equitable provision for the daughters with their parents’ testamentary autonomy and varied the division of estate assets from approximately 93% in favour of the sons with only a combined 7% for the daughters, to the more equitable division of 15% of the value of the estates for each daughter and 20% for each son.  Notwithstanding the granting of the variation of the Wills, the Court stopped short of finding that the parents’ testamentary intentions were motivated solely by unacceptable discrimination against the daughters.

While many provinces do not recognize a parental obligation to benefit a non-dependant adult child after death, coming years may nevertheless see an increase in the number of challenges to a will on the basis that its terms are discriminatory.

Thank you for reading.

Nick Esterbauer

 

Other blog posts that may be of interest:

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