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Certain obligations can trump testamentory freedom

As regular readers of this column undoubtedly know there is a seminar set for June 5, 2012. For this column, I want to focus on one aspect of the seminar, organized by B’nai Brith Canada’s Estates and Trusts, Lawyers Division, that deals with the moral obligation of parents in their testamentary planning to include children as beneficiaries.
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Unjust enrichment, equity and your mother-in-law

The average person goes to a lawyer because they just feel they were treated unfairly. I read a case recently and thought long and hard about how the plaintiff, Mary Simonin, must have felt. Her lawyer could not go to court and just say Mary was treated inappropriately. We lawyers must apply the facts to legal doctrines and theories. We rely on older cases to show that in similar circumstances the courts have granted damages to our clients. So let’s go through the facts of this case, see why Mary felt she was treated unjustly, and look how the courts applied the law to her situation.
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If it’s not fair

A young man was living with his elderly aunt. She promised that if he would be good to her, she would leave her house to him and take care of him in her will. The nephew did odd jobs around the house, drove his aunt around town and to different cities. He honoured his aunt's request, but she did not keep her word and left him noting in her Will. The Supreme Court of Canada determined that this was not an issue of enforcing a contract. It was an issue of fairness. In cases like these, the Courts have to determine if it would be inequitable to allow the promisor to keep everything while the other party provided the service. In this case, the Court found that the Aunt was unjustly enriched and it gave the nephew an award commensurate with the value of the services he provided.
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Deed

What is a Resulting Trust?

Situations arise where legal title may be in one person's name, but the courts presume there was a decision to create a trust so that the equitable or beneficial ownership really belongs to another. Let's take a look at the recent British Colombia Supreme Court case of Borkenhagen v. Kessler.
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Certain obligations can trump testamentory freedom

At common law the proposition that a testator has testamentary freedom is foundational. Yet over time, Ontario’s courts and legislature have recognized that a testator has certain obligations that may trump that freedom. For example, the courts have used legal mechanisms like constructive trusts to protect disinherited spouses. The legislature has also passed laws that provide disinherited spouses with a division of net family property, as well as dependants, like children and common law spouses, with rights to receive support if they were not adequately provided for in the will. A question this seminar is raising is where to draw that line on the restriction of testamentary freedom. Will an Ontario court vary a will when a parent disinherits an adult child? The courts in British Columbia have.
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Unjust Enrichment, Equity and your Mother in Law

The average person goes to a lawyer because they just feel they were treated unfairly. I read a case recently and thought long and hard about how the plaintiff, Mary, must have felt. Her lawyer could not go to court and just say Mary was treated inappropriately. We lawyers must apply the facts to legal doctrines and theories. We rely on older cases to show that in similar circumstances the courts have granted damages to our clients. So let’s go through the facts of this case, see why Mary felt she was treated unjustly, and look how the courts applied the law to her situation.
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Are Promises Enforceable?

Lora and Jeffrey started living together.  As their 23 month relationship grew stronger Jeffrey promised Lora that when he died Lora would get his RRSPs worth about $1,750,000 as long as they were still living together.  Jeffrey insisted that Lora sign a cohabitation agreement before he would keep his promise. …

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