Ad Hoc “Casual” Fiduciary Relationships

Fiduciary- ad hoc

Sedin Estate v Rusin 2011 BCSC 1207 is an excellent example of financial abuse of an elderly person by a trusted financial advisor who was found to be in a casual and ” ad hoc “fiduciary relationships with the deceased.

The deceased and her husband became friends with the defendant financial advisor when the deceased was 69 years of age and the defendant was 32 years old. The deceased remained friends with the defendant after her husband’s death and in fact became dependent on the defendant for management of her finances as her health deteriorated.

The deceased was a modest woman and an unsophisticated investor who is the trial judge found, placed unwavering trust and reliance in the defendant and his abilities to manage her finances.

The deceased sold her house to the defendant’s company when she was 92 years old for $270,000.

The company issued a debenture as security but never made payments thus causing a significant loss to the deceased and her estate.

The executor brought action for damages arising from breach of fiduciary duty and the action was allowed.

The court found that an ad hoc fiduciary relationship existed between the testator and the defendant who had undertaken to look after the deceased financial well-being and to act in her best interests, and he accepted this role answer financial manager.

The defendant had power over the deceased finances, which he unilaterally exercised in a way that directly affected the deceased’s interests.

The deceased was exceptionally vulnerable to the defendant’s control, and the defendant was found to have breached his fiduciary obligation when he took advantage of the deceased by arranging for the sale of her house to his limited company.

In particular the defendant breached his fiduciary duty by providing worthless security for funds advanced by the deceased, and for failing to repay the principal amounts that the deceased invested with him.

The following exerpt of law is from the Sledin case:
Fiduciary Relationships

64    Certain relationships on account of their very nature result in fiduciary obligations for one of
the parties. For example, a lawyer has a fiduciary obligation to his or her client and a trustee has a
similar duty to his or her beneficiary. These types of relationships are generally referred to as per

se fiduciary relationships.

 

  • An ad hoc fiduciary relationship is one that does not fall within the traditional categories of fiduciary relationships. Instead, it is one that arises out of the specific circumstances and dynamics of the particular relationship.
  • In dissenting reasons in Frame v. Smith, [1987] 2 S.C.R. 99 (S.C.C.) at para. 60, Wilson J. described what she considered to be the general characteristics of a fiduciary obligation as follows:

 

  1. The fiduciary has scope for the exercise of some discretion or power.
    1. The fiduciary can unilaterally exercise that power or discretion so as to affect the beneficiary’s legal or practical interests.
    2. The beneficiary is peculiarly vulnerable to or at the mercy of the fiduciary holding the discretion or power.

 

  • These observations of Madam Justice Wilson were later endorsed in International Corona Resources Ltd. v. LAC Minerals Ltd., [1989] 2 S.C.R. 574 (S.C.C).
  • The Supreme Court of Canada revisited the issue of fiduciary obligations and the constituent elements of such relationships in Hodgkinson v. Simms, [1994] 3 S.C.R. 377 (S.C.C), and Perez v. Galambos, 2009 SCC 48 (S.C.C).
  • While the characteristics of a fiduciary relationship articulated in Frame continue to be relevant in determining whether such a relationship exists, the more recent case authorities have recast those characteristics and added to them.
  • It is now clear that for an ad hoc fiduciary relationship to exist, the court must be satisfied that one party undertook, either expressly or by implication, to act for the benefit and best interest of another party: Galambos, at para. 66.
  • Moreover, a relationship whose distinguishing feature is only the vulnerability or power imbalance of one party vis a vis another will not, without any additional features, meet the threshold of a fiduciary relationship: Galambos, at paras. 67 and 74. 

Trevor Todd

Trevor Todd is one of the province’s most esteemed estate litigation lawyers. He has spent more than 40 years helping the disinherited contest wills and transfers – and win. From his Kerrisdale office, which looks more like an eclectic art gallery than a lawyer’s office, Trevor empowers claimants and restores dignity to families across BC. He is a mentor to young entrepreneurs and an art buff who supports starving artists the world over. He has an eye for talent and a heart for giving back.

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