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Converting a Petition or Application to Prove a Will into an Action

By Sabey Rule Blog

The Supreme Court Civil Rules provide that a proceeding to prove the validity of a will must be started by either a notice of application, if there is an existing proceeding in which it is appropriate to do so, or by a petition. This is set out in Rule 25-14(4). This is a significant change to the practice. Prior to the changes to the Rules with the coming into force of the Wills, Estates and Succession Act, contested proceedings to prove a will were brought by a notice of civil claim. A proceeding begun by Notice of Civil Claim is referred to as an “Action.” The difference is that an Action has pretrial procedures such as disclosure of documents, and oral examinations for discovery, and ultimately a trial with witnesses testifying in court. In contrast, a notice of application or petition does not have the pretrial disclosure process and the evidence is by way of affidavits. Read More

Gordon Estate

By Sabey Rule Blog

Section 151 of the Wills, Estates and Succession Act permits a beneficiary of a will, or in the case of an intestacy, an intestate successor to apply to court to bring or defend a claim in the name of the personal representative. Read More

Quinn Estate

By Sabey Rule Blog

Estate planning for people with assets and connections to both the United States and British Columbia is fraught with potential legal and tax pitfalls. It is important to get tax and legal advice with respect to the implications on both sides of the border. This is illustrated by the recent decision concerning the former NHL coach Pat Quinn in Quinn Estate, 2018 BCSC 365. Read More

Estate Litigation Basics Course, April 13, 2018

By Sabey Rule Blog

I have the honour of speaking at the Continuing Legal Education Course on Estate Litigation Basics, at the Pan Pacific in Vancouver on April 13, 2018. I am speaking about evidence in estate litigation. My paper is co-authored (or will be when it’s done) by Taeya Fitzpatrick of my firm.

The course is chaired by Lauren Blake of Legacy Tax and Trust Lawyers, Vancouver. The other faculty are:
Read More

MacKinnon v. Donauer

By Sabey Rule Blog

There is no shortage of court cases in British Columbia of informal family arrangements going awry. A parent may assist a child and the child’s spouse in purchasing a home with the expectation of sharing the home. The idea may make good sense. Unfortunately, neither side may consider what will happen if the arrangement doesn’t work out. In the case I am about to write about, MacKinnonv. Donauer, 2017 BCCA 437, for example, Madam Justice Newbury, noted at paragraph 3, Read More

B.C. Court of Appeal Confirms that Notaries are Not Permitted to Draw Wills with Life Estates

By Sabey Rule Blog

The British Columbia Court of Appeal confirmed that notaries public are not permitted to draw wills that create life estates or trusts in a decision released December 21, 2017. In British Columbia, generally only lawyers may practice law, which includes drawing wills for a fee. However, members of the Society of Notaries Public of British Columbia are also permitted to draw wills for a fee, but there are restrictions on the types of wills they may draw.  Specifically, as set out in section 18 of the Notaries Act, notaries may, Read More

Transfer of Firearms from an Estate

By Sabey Rule Blog

The Firearms Act defines “transfer” to mean sell, barter, or give. Accordingly, disposition of even a non-registered firearm will involve a “transfer” and will be subject to the applicable laws and regulations.

The first thing an executor needs to know is that in Canada a firearm may be transferred to:

  • a person who is 18 or older;
  • an organization with a Firearms Business License; and
  • a public service agency (such as the RCMP).

Read More

Supreme Court of Canada Decision on Proprietary Estoppel in Cowper-Smith v. Morgan

By Sabey Rule Blog

The Supreme Court of Canada rendered it judgment in Cowper-Smith v. Morgan, 2017 SCC 61, this last Thursday, December 14, 2017. The main legal issue is whether a person who relies on a promise that he will receive property to his detriment may become entitled to the property even if the person who made the promise did not own the property at the time she made the promise. Let me explain. Read More

Storage of Firearms Left in an Estate

By Sabey Rule Blog

For many executors the process of administering an estate includes dealing with unfamiliar assets and concerns, and not uncommon among these are the firearms of the deceased and the question how to store these firearms prior to transferring them. While this topic can become complex I will attempt to set out some of the more general points of firearms-related legal obligations which an executor would be wise to consider prior to dealing with any firearms in the estate. Read More

Banton v. Banton (Part 4)

By Sabey Rule Blog

This is my fourth post, on the decision in Banton v. Banton, 1998 CanLII 1496, a case involving Muna Yassin who married George Banton when she was 31 and he, 88. The dispute was between Ms. Yassin in George Banton’s five children. I described in my first post Mr. Justice Cullity’s finding that two wills Mr. Banton made leaving his estate to Ms. Yassin were invalid on the grounds that he did not have the requisite mental capacity to make the wills, and that she exercised undue influence over him. In my second post, I outlined Mr. Justice Cullity’s finding that Mr. Banton’s marriage to Ms. Yassin was nevertheless valid, which had the effect of revoking the will Mr. Banton made before the marriage in which he left the residue of his estate to his five children. Read More

Banton v. Banton (Part 3)

By Sabey Rule Blog

In my two previous posts, I’ve written about Mr. Justice Cullity’s decision in Bantonv. Banton,1998 CanLII 1496, a case involving Muna Yassin who married George Banton when she was 31 and he, 88. The dispute was between Ms. Yassin in George Banton’s five children. I described in my first post Mr. Justice Cullity’s finding that two wills Mr. Banton made leaving his estate to Ms. Yassin were invalid on the grounds that he did not have the requisite mental capacity to make the wills, and that she exercised undue influence over him. In my second post, I outlined Mr. Justice Cullity’s finding that Mr. Banton’s marriage to Ms. Yassin was nevertheless valid, which had the effect of revoking the will Mr. Banton made before the marriage in which he left the residue of his estate to his five children. Because Mr. Banton died without a valid will, Ms. Yassin was entitled to a large portion of his estate. Read More

Banton v. Banton (Part 2)

By Sabey Rule Blog

In my post last week, I wrote about Mr. Justice Cullity’s decision in Banton v. Banton, 1998 CanLII 1496 finding that two wills made by George Banton, one dated December 21, 1994 and the other dated May 4, 1995 were invalid. In both wills, Mr. Banton had left his estate to Muna Yassin, whom he met after he moved into a retirement home, disinheriting his five children, who were his beneficiaries under his previous will. He and Ms. Yassin were married on a few days before he made the December 21, 1994 will, when he was 88 years of age, and she, 31. Mr. Justice Cullity found that Mr. Banton was suffering from delusions about his children when he made the wills, and he did not have the requisite capacity to make them, and that Ms. Yassin exercised undue influence to obtain the benefit of the wills. Accordingly, she did not benefit under the wills.

But I indicated that there were some twists. Today I will write about one. Read More

Banton v. Banton (Part 1)

By Sabey Rule Blog

I have recently reread the case of Banton v. Banton, 1998 CanLII 14926, a decision of Mr. Justice Cullity of the Ontario Supreme Court. This case may be referred to as a predatory-marriage case. What interests me most, though, is the interplay of legal issues. Mr. Justice Cullity considers in his decision the capacity to make a will, and the impact of delusions on capacity, undue influence, the capacity to marry, the validity of a residence trust, and the use of a power of attorney to settle a trust. I think this case is well worth a few blog posts. I will start with the challenges to the validity of two wills. Read More

Undue Influence by Inducing False Beliefs: Re: Patterson Estate

By Sabey Rule Blog, Strata and Condo Law

Undue influence usually implies coercion. Someone may challenge a will or a benefit in a will on the basis that another procured the will or benefit by applying pressure to the will maker. The pressure may be overt threats of violence, or perhaps subtler forms of pressure such as an implied threat by the will maker’s caregiver to withdraw care.

A recent decision of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court, Re: Patterson Estate, 2017 NSSC 221, identifies as undue influence a child procuring a will by inducing her mother to believe that her other children did not care about her.

Joan Patterson had four children, Reed Patterson, Randall Patterson, Darlene Marriott, and Marlene Patterson. She died on June 13, 2016, the age of 70, and her husband had died four months before. Marlene Patterson had been estranged from both of her parents for about 20 years, but reconciled in 2012. On March 4, 2016, Joan Patterson moved from her home into Marlene Patterson’s home. On May 13, 2016, she made a new will, leaving her estate to Marlene Patterson, disinheriting her other three children.

Mr. Justice Wright found that Joan Patterson’s will was properly signed and witnessed in accordance with Nova Scotia law. She knew and approved of the contents of the will, and she had testamentary capacity.

The decision turned on whether Marlene Patterson procured the will by fraudulently inducing her to disinherit her other children. Mr. Justice Wright quoted from John Poyser’s book Capacity and Undue Influence (which I have reviewed here) in setting out the legal issue:

[17] In pressing their grounds of fraud as a subspecies of undue influence, the applicants rely on the following passage from the text book Capacity and Undue Influence (Carswell 2014) authored by John E.S. Poyser (at pg. 318):

Testamentary undue influence is typically thought of in terms of coercion. There is good reason for that. Dozens of cases have stated that conduct must amount to coercion if it is to amount to testamentary undue influence. Yet there are also abundant comments in the same cases and others that open the door to characterize testamentary fraud as a second type of conduct that can amount to undue influence. Coercion forces a person to do something against his or her will. Fraud operates differently. Testamentary fraud is an effort to fool a person into believing a false state of affairs that is then instrumental in causing that person to make a testamentary gift that otherwise would not have been made. As indicated earlier, persuasion is permitted, but persuasion is not permitted when it is mounted on a foundation of deliberate lies. Testamentary undue influence by coercion is difficult to establish. It is often pled but rarely proved as the facts rarely sustain it. Undue influence by fraud will be more easily sustained. Isolation, falsehood, and ingratiation are a common recipe employed by predatory family and peers in a bid to subvert a vulnerable person’s property at death.

[18] In the pages that follow, the author traces the development of fraud as a subspecies of undue influence in the case law. He refers to the decisions in Anderson v. Walkey, 1961 CarswellOnt 91 and in Timlick v. Crawford, 1965 CarswellBC 86 as instances where Canadian courts have invalidated a Will on the grounds of undue influence, not as the result of coercion, but as the result of manipulation and deceit.

[19] It is also noted (at pg. 324) that the party alleging undue influence has to prove not only the impugned conduct but that it in fact caused the Will-maker to sign the Will.

Marlene Patterson’s sister and brothers alleged that she had manipulated her mother into making the will isolating them from their mother and making false statements about them. Darlene Marriott testified that Marlene Patterson had asked her to assist her in persuading their mother’s disinherit their brothers. It was also evident that Marlene Patterson assisted her mother and making notes for her meeting with the lawyer who drew the will.

Mr. Justice Wright found that Marlene Patterson did in fact induce her mother into making the will she did by manipulation.

[87] It is not only from these suspicious circumstances but rather from the evidence as a whole, including Marlene’s lack of credibility, that the Court is prepared to draw the inference that Joan was induced to form the false beliefs she held about her other childrens’ lack of caring, through manipulation and deceit on the part of Marlene under whose control she remained after the move. Joan then acted on those false beliefs in changing her Will as she did. I therefore find that the actions of Marlene, on a balance of probabilities, crossed the line into the sphere of undue influence. As noted earlier, while persuasion is permitted without legal consequence, persuasion of a testator is not permitted when it is mounted on a foundation of untruths induced by the proponent of a Will.

In the result, the May 13, 2016 will is invalid.

Sato v. Sato

By Sabey Rule Blog

Things would be simpler, but not nearly as interesting, if everyone remained in the same place.

Hiroyuki Rex Sato, often referred to as Rex, immigrated with his family to British Columbia in 1969. He became a Canadian citizen in 1975. Following his graduation from university, Mr. Sato lived and worked in several different cities, first in Toronto, then back in Vancouver, followed by the Cayman Islands, Tokyo, Guernsey, and then Luxembourg. He died on March 7, 2015 in Japan where he was being treated for cancer. For Canadian income tax purposes, the Canada Revenue Agency agreed that he became a non-resident of Canada in 1999.

Mr. Sato made a will in Vancouver on May 19, 2011, while visiting. In his will, Mr. Sato appointed his sister Helen Sato as his executor, and divided most of his estate equally between his two sisters. This will was his last.

Makiko Sato and Rex Sato were married in April 2013. At that time, he was living in Luxembourg. He had moved there in 2009, and remained a resident of Luxembourg until his death.

The issue Mr. Justice Funt was asked to decide in Sato v. Sato, 2017 BCSC 1394, was whether Mr. Sato was domiciled in Luxembourg at the time of his marriage or still in British Columbia. Why is that important?

The law in British Columbia in April 2013 was that a marriage revoked a will unless the will was made in contemplation of marriage. (The law has since changed in British Columbia, and a marriage occurring on or after March 31, 2014, no longer revokes a prior will.) If the court found that Mr. Sato was domiciled in British Columbia, then British Columbia law would apply. The result would then be that Mr. Sato’s will was revoked, and his wife would inherit estate on the basis that he died without a valid will.

But the law in Luxembourg was different. Under Luxembourg law at the time marriage did not revoke a will. If Mr. Sato were domiciled in Luxembourg, then his marriage did not revoke his 2011 Will, and his sisters would inherit the residue of his estate.

Although Mr. Sato was resident in Luxembourg, and had not resided in British Columbia since 1999, domicile means something more than residence. To change domicile, it is necessary to both reside in a new place, and intend to permanently settle their. Mr. Justice Funt quoted from several cases, including the following at paragraph 9 of his decision:

[9]            In Osvath-Latkoczy v. Osvath-Latkoczy, [1959] S.C.R. 751, the Supreme Court of Canada considered whether the appellant’s domicile of choice was Ontario. Justice Judson writing for the Court stated at 753:

The principle to be applied is that stated in Lord v. Colvin, which was adopted in Wadsworth v. McCord, and followed in Gunn v. Gunn:

That place is properly the domicile of a person in which he has voluntarily fixed the habitation of himself and his family, not for a mere special and temporary purpose, but with a present intention of making it his permanent home, unless and until something (which is unexpected or the happening of which is uncertain) shall occur to induce him to adopt [some] other permanent home.

Mr. Justice Funt found that Mr. Sato was not domiciled in Luxembourg. When Mr. Sato applied to Canada Revenue Agency to determine his residency status when he left Canada, Mr. Sato wrote in the form that he intended to return to Canada. He wrote that he had a strong desire to be involved in international business, and planned to retire in Canada.

Helen Sato had the burden of showing that Mr. Sato had changed his intention to eventually retire in Canada. She was unable to provide sufficient evidence to persuade the Court that Mr. Sato intended to make Luxembourg his permanent home. There was some evidence that Mr. Sato wished to retire in Japan, which Mr. Justice Funt noted “further supports the proposition that the deceased did not intend to reside in Luxembourg indefinitely.”

The result is that Mr. Sato’s marriage revoked the 2011 will, and his wife, Makiko Sato, is entitled to his entire estate as the intestate heir.

Capacity to Marry: Devore-Thompson v. Poulain

By Sabey Rule Blog

Marriage has significant legal implications on the succession of property. Yet, I don’t come across either in my practice or my reading, that many cases where a marriage is challenged on the basis that someone did not have the mental capacity to marry. I certainly don’t see as many cases challenging the validity of a marriage as I do challenging the validity of a will or transfer of property. Read More

Bach Estate

By Sabey Rule Blog

In British Columbia, if you make a gift to one of the two witnesses to your will, or to the spouse of one of the two witnesses to your will, the usual rule is that the gift is invalid. This rule can lead to very harsh results, invalidating significant gifts to close family or friends, thwarting the will maker’s intentions.

Fortunately, the Wills, Estates and Succession Act contains a new provision allowing the court to declare that a gift to a witness, or to the spousal witness, is valid and may take effect, if the court is satisfied that the will maker intended to make the gift.

Read More

Johnson v. North Shore Yacht Works Corp.

By Sabey Rule Blog

In British Columbia, a trustee acting in the administration of a trust is generally entitled to be reimbursed for his or her reasonable expenses out of the trust assets. But what if the trustee makes a contract in respect of the trust assets, and there are insufficient assets in the trust to pay the amount owing? Might the trustee have to pay the shortfall out of his or her own pocket? Read More

Parker v Felgate

By Sabey Rule Blog

The issue to be decided by a jury in Parker v. Felgate (1883), L.R. 8 P. D. 171 (Eng P.D.A.), was whether Georgina Compton was competent to make her will. There was no question that Georgina Compton had capacity to make a will when she gave her instructions to Mr. Parker. In light of her capacity when she gave instructions, what level of functioning was required for her to make a valid will at the time she answered “yes” when asked if she wished Mrs. Flack to sign on her behalf?

Read More

Hiding Assets in Divorce Proceeding Backfires

By Sabey Rule Blog

To some extent, the court process depends on the integrity of the people involved, including the parties to a lawsuit, as well as their lawyers. Of course, some people do lie. The process allows for pre-trial document disclosure and examinations under oath. At a trial, there are usually several witnesses, and lawyers have the opportunity to question opposing parties as well as all of the witnesses Read More

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