Wills Variation: Four Daughters Win Against Sons

4 B.C. sisters victorious in court after parents left them tiny share of $9M estate

Written by Bethany Lindsay | Published on CBC.ca

Judge changes wills after  Litt parents left 93% of their estate to 2 sons and $150,000 to each of four daughters.

When they died three years ago, Nahar and Nihal Litt left behind an estate valued at more than $9 million. They willed 93 per cent of that to their two sons, leaving their four daughters to split what was left.

That’s despite the fact that the daughters, now in their 50s and 60s, took on most of the work of caring for their aging parents in the years before they died, according to a B.C. Supreme Court judgment. They also helped build their parents’ fortune, working on family-owned farms beginning when they were children.

And so the sisters decided to contest their parents’ will in court, arguing that their parents discriminated against them based on outdated traditional values, the judgment says.

 

This Richmond farm helped build the Litt family’s fortune. (Farms in B.C.)

When they died three years ago, Nahar and Nihal Litt left behind an estate valued at more than $9 million. They willed 93 per cent of that to their two sons, leaving their four daughters to split what was left.

That’s despite the fact that the daughters, now in their 50s and 60s, took on most of the work of caring for their aging parents in the years before they died, according to a B.C. Supreme Court judgment. They also helped build their parents’ fortune, working on family-owned farms beginning when they were children.

And so the sisters decided to contest their parents’ will in court, arguing that their parents discriminated against them based on outdated traditional values, the judgment says.

“One of the reasons that they wanted to pursue the claim was not just out of self-interest, but so other South Asian women in the same position would also have the courage to do so,” their lawyer, Trevor Todd, told CBC News.

This week, Justice Elaine Adair agreed to redistribute the Litt estate, granting about $1.35 million to each of the sisters: Jasbinder Kaur Grewal, Mohinder Kaur Litt-Grewal, Amarjit Kaur Gottenbos and Inderjit Kaur Sidhu

That adds up to 60 per cent of the family fortune, much higher than the $150,000 each they were initially promised.

Their two brothers, Terry Mukhtiar Singh Litt and Kasar Singh Litt, will split the remaining 40 per cent, or about $1.8 million each.

The brothers both agreed that their parents had failed to meet their “moral obligations” to their daughters, though they argued in court for larger inheritances for themselves. Terry Litt testified that he had tried to convince his mother and father that the wills were unfair, but he was unable to persuade them to make changes.

‘The hurts were deep’

Adair’s judgment lays out more than five decades of history in an immigrant family whose frugal lifestyle and hard work helped build a multi-million-dollar legacy. It reveals a network of complicated family relationships touched by resentment that led one daughter to become estranged from her parents for 20 years.

The Litts arrived in B.C. from India in 1964, when their children were between the ages of three and 14 years old, according to the judgment.

Dad Nahar found a job at a sawmill, and the family gradually began acquiring real estate, including a number of farms.

“As soon as they were old enough, the siblings were expected to work during the summers alongside their mother, picking fruit and vegetable crops,” Adair wrote.

The Litts owned a number of farms in Richmond and the Fraser Valley over the years. (Farms in B.C.)

The difference, according to the daughters, is that they were expected to take care of household chores, while their brothers were not. They testified that, as girls, they were treated as less valuable.

“There is little doubt that Nihal, over her lifetime and without justification, treated her daughters very cruelly. Jasbinder and Mohinder, the two oldest, were particular targets,” Adair wrote.

“The hurts were deep and are still keenly felt.”

Despite that cruelty, the two eldest daughters took on most of the work caring for their ailing parents in the years before they both died in the span of two months in early 2016.

‘They consider it a victory’

Today, the siblings all have their own families and are financially independent. Even before they receive their inheritance, some of them have assets valued in the millions of dollars.

But Adair wrote that the parents’ wills were not adequate to support their daughters.

B.C.’s Wills, Estates and Succession Act gives judges wide leeway to make drastic changes to a will to make sure there’s a “just and equitable” distribution to someone’s surviving spouse and children. At the same time, they’re expected to consider the “testamentary autonomy” of the dead person — in other words, a person’s right to decide who gets their money.

Todd said he believes the judge did a good job of balancing those two concerns.

“The clients are very happy with the result. They consider it a victory,” he sai

 

Predatory Marriage

Predatory Marriage

Probably every experienced estate litigation lawyer has had court actions involving a predatory spouse. The phenomenon is disturbing and increasingly common in our society as individuals both live longer and accumulate more wealth.

In simple terms, predatory spouses take advantage of elderly victims and assume control of their financial affairs and often culminate in a secret marriage. The consequences for the victim and their immediate family are traumatic and significant.

Predatory marriage refers to a marriage ceremony entered into for the singular purpose of exploitation, personal gain and profit. Love and personal commitment are simply not part of the equation. The relationship typically begins when a caregiver persuades a vulnerable person to marry. The victim is usually elderly, dependent, vulnerable and suffering from significant cognitive impairment.

The marriage ceremony is usually secretive and the victim is thereafter closeted away from their loved ones as the predator takes control and management of the victim’s financial affairs.

Historically, the courts took an overly simplistic approach to marriage in that they equated marriage to a simple contract requiring minimal mental capacity. In other words, “any idiot can get married”.

Ironically, perhaps, if the contract to enter marriage is so simple, then why does a significant percentage of the legal profession engage in full-time work trying to extricate the parties from the supposedly simple contract?

The Law

One of the early leading cases is from 1885. Durham v. Durham 10 P.D. 80 provided a quote that has been frequently adopted by Canadian courts: “the contract of marriage is a simple one, which does not require a high degree of intelligence to comprehend”.

It is only in recent years that the courts have taken a more realistic approach to the level of mental capacity required to enter into a valid marriage. The law may still be described as being in a state of flux, and the courts typically still view the capacity to marry as a lower threshold than the capacity to manage one’s affairs, make a will, or instruct counsel.

The leading case in British Columbia is Wolfman–Stotland v. Stotland 2011 BCCA 175, which set out the hierarchy of capacity required for various decisions, holding that:

  1. separation is the simplest act, requiring the lowest level of understanding;
  2. divorce, while still simple, requires a bit more understanding in that it requires the desire to remain separated and no longer be married;
  3. American courts have recognized that the mental capacity required for divorce is the same as that required for entering into marriage;
  4. financial matters require a higher level of understanding than marriage;
  5. the capacity to instruct counsel involves the ability to understand financial and legal issues, which puts it significantly higher on the competency hierarchy;
  6. the highest level of capacity is that required to make a will.

A lack of mental capacity to marry will render a marriage void ab initio (as if it had never occurred) per Ross-Scott v. Potvin 2014 BCSC 435.

The law presumes that an adult has capacity unless the contrary is established. The onus of proof for establishing lack of mental capacity to marry is on the person asserting the same.

3 Recent Cases Involving Predatory Spouses

1. Juzumas v. Baron 2012 ONSC 7220

This case involved a predatory marriage where the victim, Mr. Juzumas, was an 88-year-old vulnerable male who was mentally incompetent. The court set aside a wedding and a transfer of his property to the predator’s son on the basis of the doctrines of undue influence and unconscionability.

Ms. Baron, the predator spouse, was a 64-year-old widow who had been married previously 6 to 8 times and had a history of caring for older men with the expectation of receiving an inheritance through their estates. She befriended Mr. Juzumas and promised to live together and care for him. He married her and signed a will naming her as the executrix and sole beneficiary.

After the marriage ceremony Ms. Baron continued to live in a separate apartment with her 23-year-old son and only visited her purported husband for several hours a week. She became increasingly abusive controlling and domineering towards Mr. Juzumas.

Without her knowledge, Mr. Juzumas ultimately changed his will to leave Ms. Baron only a modest bequest of $10,000. When she found out she embarked on a campaign to ensure that she received Mr. Juzumas s’s home. Through the assistance of a lawyer, an agreement was drafted that transferred the property to Ms. Baron’s son and Mr. Juzumas was left with a life interest in his home.

At the time of the transfer, Mr. Juzumas was 91 years of age, vulnerable, in failing health and completely dependent on and dominated by his abusive spouse. He lived in constant fear of being abandoned to a nursing home, with which Ms. Walker continually threatened him.

He commenced a court action to set aside the transfer of the property and sought a divorce and dissolution of the marriage.

The court set aside the transfer of land on the basis of the doctrines of undue influence and unconscionability, both of which may be used “where a stronger party takes advantage of a weaker party in the course of inducing the weaker party’s consent to an agreement”.

The court found that there was actual undue influence by reason of the fact that Ms. Baron threatened an elderly dependent with abandonment to a care home.

The court also found presumptive undue influence by reason of the fact that she was a caregiver who had the ability or potential to dominate the will of the other, whether through manipulation, coercion, or outright but subtle abuse of power.

It was incumbent upon the wife to rebut the presumption of undue influence and demonstrate that the transaction was an exercise of independent free will, which she was completely unable to do.

The court also relied upon the doctrine of unconscionability which gives the court the jurisdiction to set aside an agreement resulting from an inequality of bargaining power. The onus is on the defendant to establish the fairness of the transaction.

2. Hunt v. Worrod 2017 ONSC 7397

The facts of this case are perhaps as egregious as they possibly may be with respect to predatory marriages.

As a result of a catastrophic head injury, the 50-year-old Mr. Hunt had been in a coma for 18 days and hospitalized for four months. The injury left him with what doctors described as a wasted, shrunken brain.

Three days after leaving hospital, Mr. Hunt was spirited away by the defendant Worrod, a former girlfriend, for a secret wedding that gave her legal rights to his future wealth and his landscaping business, home and expected $1 million personal injury settlement.

Mr. Hunt’s concerned children contacted the police, who located him in a motel just hours after the purported wedding took place. His sons had been made his legal guardians by court order.

Mr. Hunt never lived with his purported wife after the marriage. Before the accident he had had an on-again, off-again relationship with Ms. Worrod and had concluded their relationship with a separation agreement that resolved all of their property and legal obligations to each other. In fact, he had been required to contact the police to remove her from his residence when the relationship ended.

It was noted that Ms. Worrod was an extreme alcoholic who had hit Mr. Hunt when drunk and was generally unable to act and care responsibly for herself while intoxicated.

Evidence at trial from various medical experts was conclusive that Mr. Hunt was intellectually devastated with serious physical and cognitive issues that made him increasingly malleable and easily influenced through emotional stimulation, including sexual relations.

The medical evidence was consistent that Mr. Hunt suffered a classic case of frontal lobe syndrome that limited his ability to reason abstractly, problem solve, make decisions or consider alternatives, and that he lacked insight and self-awareness. His cognitive limitations severely limited his ability to understand the consequences of his behaviors and actions.

All of the various medical experts who testified made it clear that Mr. Hunt did not have the capacity to marry. As stated in Ross-Scott v. Potvin 2014 BCSC 435:

“A person is capable of entering into a marriage contract only if he or she has the capacity to understand the nature of the contract and duties and responsibilities it creates. The assessment of a person’s capacity to understand the nature of the marriage commitment is informed, in part, by an ability to manage themselves and their affairs. Delusional thinking or reduced cognitive abilities alone may not destroy an individual’s capacity to form an intention to marry as long as the person is capable of managing their own affairs.”

The court concluded that Mr. Hunt did not have the requisite capacity to marry as he did not understand the nature of the contract he was entering into and the responsibilities the contract created.

The marriage was declared void ab initio and Ms. Worrod was ordered to have no further contact with Mr. Hunt.

3. Devore-Thompson v Poulain 2017 BCSC 1289

The deceased, Donna Walker, suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and in September 2010 was declared by the court to be incapable of managing her financial and legal affairs because of her dementia. She had moved into a care facility in September 2010, where she remained until her death in late 2013 at age 74.

Ms. Walker had purportedly married the defendant Poulain in June 2010 but they never lived together, either before or after the marriage ceremony.

The overwhelming evidence of several lay witnesses, as well as a treating geriatric psychiatrist, was that Ms. Walker had lacked mental capacity to marry in 2010.

For example, one lay witness testified that Ms. Walker had told her that she did not know where she was married, who married her, or even why she married the defendant. Once again, the marriage was done in secret and there were no friends or family at the wedding service.

There was one photograph taken at the wedding ceremony which clearly indicated that Ms. Walker’s facial expression was vacant.

After her first marriage ended, Ms. Walker had always told those close to her that she never wished to marry again. She was very close to her family and friends but never expressed to a single witness that she was in love with the defendant, that she knew anything about him, that they had any kind of future together, or that she wanted to get married and spend the rest of her life with him.

The evidence of the treating geriatric psychiatrist was most significant, in that she testified as follows:

  1. Ms. Walker did not understand reality, absorb information or make decisions based on the correct facts, and that she had no insight or judgment.
  2. On learning of the purported marriage, the psychiatrist had made an urgent referral to the Public Guardian and Trustee stating that Ms. Walker was incapable of entering into a marriage relationship as she was moderately to severely demented and had significant impairment of executive function. She also noted that Ms. Walker was at significant risk for abuse as a vulnerable adult.
  3. Ms. Walker did not have a grip on reality but insisted that she was fully independent for self-care and household management, despite much evidence to the contrary.

The defendant testified that he had no concern about Ms. Walker’s mental capacity.

The court had no difficulty in finding the defendant to be a completely untruthful witness who was motivated by a desire for financial gain from Ms. Walker’s assets.

The court concluded that Ms. Walker’s mental capacity had diminished to such an extent that she could not have formed an intention to live with the defendant or to form a lifetime bond. At the time of the marriage she did not understand what it meant to live together with another person, and could not know even the most basic meaning of marriage or understand any of its implications, including who she was married to, in the sense of what kind of person he was, what their emotional attachment was, that they would be living together, and fundamentally how marriage would affect her life on a day-to-day basis in the future.

Accordingly, the court found that Ms. Walker did not have the capacity to marry the defendant and the marriage was declared void ab initio. Two wills done by Ms. Walker in 2007 and 2009 were also set aside by reason of her lack of capacity.

Conclusion

The advent of a rapidly aging population with significant wealth will certainly lead to a rise in the increasingly common phenomenon of predatory marriage.

The legal issue of mental capacity to enter into such a marriage will increasingly become more relevant and litigated.

The legal test for capacity to marry is in a state of flux. It will undoubtedly continue to evolve as more instances of predatory marriage are brought before the courts and they become more accustomed to recognizing such predatory behavior.

To some extent I believe it is a situation where the courts need to be more cognizant of the significant number of predators in our society who prey upon the infirm and vulnerable.

The concept that only a low level of mental capacity is required to enter into a marriage is an anachronism that needs to be corrected, given the complexity of current family law, particularly as it relates to property entitlement to the assets of one spouse.

At present, to succeed in having a purported predatory marriage set aside, it is necessary to prove on the balance of probabilities that the victim lacked mental capacity to understand the nature of the marital contract, which typically requires both the testimony of lay witnesses and medical evidence of lack of capacity.

The Juzumas v. Baron decision is significant in that the court also invoked the doctrines of undue influence and unconscionability in setting aside the purported marriage. Hopefully it will be followed by other court decisions as useful tools to remedy a wrong suffered in the context of a predatory marriage and financial abuse.

Jerry Lewis and Wills Variation

Jerry Lewis and Wills Variation

In British Columbia, Jerry Lewis’s six disinherited children would have a wills variation claim under Section 60 of WESA.

The news today reported:

When comedian Jerry Lewis died from heart failure in August at the age of 91, as it turns out, he left the majority of his estranged children nothing — and rather proudly.

People obtained his last will and testament, and discovered that Lewis cut out all six of his children with his first wife Patti Palmer, who are therefore set to inherit nothing.

The will, which was executed in 2012, reads: “I have intentionally excluded Gary Lewis, Ronald Lewis, Anthony Joseph Lewis, Christopher Joseph Lewis, Scott Anthony Lewis, and Joseph Christopher Lewis and their descendants as beneficiaries of my estate, it being my intention that they shall receive no benefits hereunder.”

Lewis and Palmer were married for 36 years from 1944 to 1980. Their sixth child, Joseph, mentioned above, actually died of a drug overdose in 2009.

However, Lewis remarried in 1983, to Las Vegas dancer SanDee Pitnick. As his widow, Lewis’s estate will likely be passed down to Pitnick. Second in line to inherit is Lewis’s remaining child, 25-year-old daughter Danielle, whom he adopted with Pitnick and who was also working as Lewis’s manager up until his death.

Ian Mulgrew: As if Death Weren’t Bad Enough — Fraudulent Wills

Ian Mulgrew: As if Death Weren't Bad Enough — Fraudulent Wills

Originally published in The Vancouver Sun May 4, 2017

Written by Ian Mulgrew

The B.C. inheritance-and-estate law brought in two years ago has increased the risk of forged and fraudulent wills, says a lawyer involved in the debate about its creation.

Trevor Todd, who runs disinherited.com, said the situation is worrying given that in his 40-year practice he previously saw only one forged will — in the late-1970s.

That case involved a nightclub doorman and his legal-secretary girlfriend taking advantage of the chronically drunk bar owner with a will that left everything to the bouncer. The club owner’s widow hired a handwriting expert and the case was settled out-of-court when the will was unveiled as a fake.

The old rules required that a will be in writing, signed by the testator and two witnesses, all in the presence of each other, and neither of whom nor their spouses could inherit as a beneficiary.

(The doorman used two bar flies as witnesses — the girlfriend having alerted him to the perils of signing the phoney document.)

Most forged-wills cases involve handwritten documents, known as holographs, putatively signed by the deceased with no witnesses.

Several decisions since the Wills, Estates and Succession Act (WESA) came into effect March 31, 2014, however, have allowed wills that previously would have been ruled invalid to be probated despite irregularities such as the lack of witnesses.

In one of the first post-WESA cases, (Re the Estate of Woolrich, V140043, unreported, Jan. 21, 2015), the B.C. Supreme Court found a suicide note to be a valid will.

In Re Smith Estate 2016 BCSC 350, the court granted probate to three clipped and stapled-together documents — two handwritten and the other an original funeral-arrangements brochure, all unsigned and unwitnessed.

In Re Yaremkewich Estate 2015 BCSC 1124, the witnesses signed a blank template that didn’t have attached the lists of bequests found with the will after death.

Also, they couldn’t recall if the deceased had signed the will template at the same time as they did. The judge still approved the will, including the lists of bequests.

“To date the courts have not set any limit on what type of documentation is necessary to prove a will-maker’s true intentions with respect to his or her last will,” Todd said. “It is possible, for example, that an email message might be admitted to probate as a will. Such a thought immediately conjures up the prospect of an increase in faked wills.”

The previous legislation took a very strict approach to wills, Todd explained, so any deviation caused a will to be deemed wholly or partly invalid.

For policy reasons, the government decided far greater court discretion was required to “cure” previously “defective” wills.

Passed in 2009, WESA included provisions that allowed probate as long as the intention of the testator was clear.

At the time, litigators including Todd, predicted more, not fewer lawsuits with the adoption of a significantly different conception of what could be considered a valid will.

With the public now increasingly preparing their own wills, Todd maintained, the self-help process has exacerbated the problem providing even greater opportunity for deathbed legerdemain.

“As the public increasingly prepare their own wills, all without the ‘screen’ of a lawyer testing for capacity and undue influence, it appears inevitable that there will be more forged or faked testamentary documents,” he said.

Combating a counterfeit will, he added, is difficult because bringing a charge of forgery is tantamount to alleging fraud, requires expensive handwriting experts and, if unproven, results in a heavy, special-costs award against the accuser.

“Handwriting experts require 20 to 30 handwritten signatures of the deceased, preferably originals only, which they analyze through microscopes,” he said. “Their job is often complicated by the effect of tremors, arthritis or other related afflictions that a frail or elderly will-maker may have.”

And lawyer-prepared wills aren’t a palatable solution.

“There is a great price barrier as to what people will pay professionals to prepare wills, given the availability of will kits and such on the Internet,” Todd noted.

England Considers Allowing Texts and Voicemails to Be Wills

England Considers Allowing Texts and Voicemails to Be Wills

England is considering introducing radical reforms to it’s inheritance laws that would allow text messages and voice mails to be valid wills according to an article in today’s Telegraph.

“British people will be able to use voicemail and text messages to make their wills, under a radical overhaul of inheritance laws Law Commission has branded the current legacy system outdated and recommends it be revolutionized to keep up with the digital age.

Under present laws, which date back to 1839, wills need to be written and signed by the testator as well as two witnesses in order to be valid.

The commission suggests those rules are unclear and outdated

The plans drawn up by the Commission call for the law to be relaxed to allow notes, emails and voicemail messages to be used in place of a written will.

Under the proposals, new powers would allow county and high court judges to decide on the balance of probabilities whether a recording or note is an accurate summary of a person’s wishes.

Deathbed changes of heart could even be recorded and used to overrule an existing, valid will.

The consultation document says that there are strong arguments that it should apply not only to traditional written documents, but also where testators express their testamentary intentions in an electronic format, as well as in an audio or audio-visual recording.

But the Commission admits that the changes could add to family arguments as possible beneficiaries scour their relative’s communications for evidence that they had changed their mind.

The consultation adds: A person who is seriously ill in hospital may have more immediate access to a tablet or smartphone than to a pen and paper, and may be more able to speak than to write.

On the other hand, the potential recognition of electronic documents could provide a treasure trove for dissatisfied relatives.

“They may be tempted to sift through a huge number of texts, emails and other records in order to find one that could be put forward as a will on the basis of a dispensing power.

The powers already exist in Australia, Canada, South Africa, and several US states.

Law Commissioner Professor Nick Hopkins said: Even when it’s obvious what someone wanted, if they haven’t followed the strict rules, courts cannot act on it.

But experts urged caution amid concerns that older people could be pressured into last-minute changes of heart.

There are a number of ways to get a will drafted. One option is through a solicitor or use a will writing service.

The fee for using a solicitor will vary depending on the firm and the complexity of the will.

Caroline Abraham, charity director of Age UK said: Whilst we welcome this public consultation, any proposed changes must not create further barriers for people who wish to plan ahead, and ensure that older people are able to make their own decisions wherever possible, free from pressure and coercion.

Elizabeth Neale, partner in the private wealth team at law firm Bircham Dyson Bell, cautioned that weakening the current strict rules could have worrying implications for vulnerable people.

She added that there could be pressure on people to write something down or make a voicemail.

Professor Hopkins added: Any new law would protect vulnerable testators against possible undue influence, and certainly if there was any suggestion that that had been exercised, the court isn’t going to use the dispensing power. But this is a consultation, so if anyone has those concerns, they should let us know.

The proposals also suggest changing the law about mental capacity – to  make it easier to assess whether someone with dementia is able to make a will.

The current law dates from an 1870 case which provides when someone is making a will 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.

It suggests that the Mental Capacity Act, which is currently used to decide whether someone is capable of making a decision for themselves in other contexts, be used instead.”

Elder Abuse- Red Flags

Signs Your Senior Loved One is a Victim of Elder Abuse

The following article on signs of elder abuse  is reprinted with the permission of Sally Perkins , an American former home care and hospice manager.

Red Flags That Your Senior Loved One is a Victim of Elder Abuse

If only we lived in a world where people always responded to vulnerability with compassion and care. Unfortunately, elder abuse happens. Its hard to know how common it is, as researchers suspect that only about one in 14 cases ever get reported. The abuse can come at the hands of family members, hired caregivers, or from staff members in an assisted living or nursing home.

Keep in mind that many injuries and seemingly abnormal behaviors in seniors are common results of aging. Try to avoid seeing the possibility of abuse in every little behavioral change or scrape that you notice, but do be on the lookout for signs that could point to a larger issue.

Here are some of the most common symptoms that occur.

Frequent unexplained bruises

A bruise now and then is normal. You’ve probably got one somewhere on you right now and they occur more frequently in seniors due to their skin becoming thinner. If your loved one shows what seems to be an excessive amount of bruising and you have a hard time identifying a cause for them, then it’s worth starting to pay more attention.

Sprains or broken bones

As with bruising, these aren’t uncommon injuries for seniors to experience. Yet if they experience them a lot and don’t seem to have a good explanation for what happened, or seem uncomfortable providing an explanation, then you may have a bigger problem than typical aging-related clumsiness.

Burns

Cigarette burns are harder to obtain by accident and very likely point to elder abuse. Burns that appear to be caused by an iron are another serious indicator, as are burns likely caused by hot water. Â

How to Tell the Difference Between Abuse and Accidents

This is the part that’s a little trickier. Accusations of abuse are a big deal, so you don’t want to call the authorities on a family member or paid caregiver simply because your loved one is prone to falls or tends to burn themselves in the kitchen. On the other hand, of course you don’t want them to be stuck suffering abuse with no help.

There are a couple of signs that will help you gauge when injuries are intentional.

Conflicting Accounts of an Injuries Cause

If your loved one can’t seem to keep their story straight about how they got that burn, or if they seem uncomfortable providing any story or explanation at all, that could point to attempts to cover up the abuse due to fear or dependence on the abuser. Additionally, if their caregiver offers a different story than they do, that could be cause for concern.

Injuries Occurring Frequently

If every time you see your loved one they seem to have some new burn or scratch or bruise, then start paying close attention. Maybe you just have a clumsy loved one, but maybe those injuries are coming at the hands of someone else. Start to make a note of the type of injury and the date so you’ll have an easier time recognizing patterns and figuring out if it really is occurring at an abnormal rate.

Delay in Seeking Care for an Injury

Any time a senior has an accident that causes a serious injury, the first move should be to head to the hospital for care. Even for minor injuries, whoever’s around should go into problem-solving mode to help with bandaging or any other treatment needed. If injuries aren’t healing the way they should because they haven’t been properly treated, or because treatment wasn’t sought out until well after the injury first occurred, then that’s a problem.

If this happens once you should be worried and consider if there are any other signs pointing to abuse. If it happens multiple times, then it’s very likely that abuse is occurring and it’s time to step in.

What to Do if You Suspect Elder Physical Abuse

If you’re pretty sure abuse is occurring or at least have strong suspicions of it, then you need to take action.

Get your loved one somewhere safe.

If the abuser is a caregiver living in their home, then find another friend or family member’s place for them to stay. If you think it’s a staff member at a nursing home, talk to the managers there immediately. You want to make sure your loved one doesn’t continue to suffer abuse any moment longer.

Note: If your loved one has been hurt to the point where they need emergency care, your first step should be to call 911. This will ensure they get the immediate care they need and give you the opportunity to speak with the authorities and share your concerns.

Contact the proper authorities.

The National Center on Elder Abuse  ( The Public Guardian and Trustee in British Columbia)  offers a state-by-state directory of available resources you can use and agencies to report abuse to. If your loved one denies the abuse, you may be limited in how much you can do here, but it’s worth at least getting in touch with the proper authorities to see what they recommend and can do for your loved one now.

Encourage your loved one to attend therapy.

While the stigmas of therapy have faded for most people in the United States and Canada  at this point, some seniors may still find the idea unpalatable. Nonetheless, abuse can have serious negative psychological effects, especially if the abuser is someone that your loved one trusted and loved. Do your best to convince your loved one to give therapy a try to work through their feelings from the experience.

The help of a skilled professional could not only help them better handle the pain they’re feeling from the experience, but can also help them understand how to recognize abuse if it every occurs again so they don’t silently live with it.

We will probably never live in a world where physical abuse of the elderly is entirely eradicated. But if everyone does their part to pay attention and keep an eye out for the people they love, we can do a better job of identifying the problem when it does occur and taking steps to stop it.

Your loved one has lived a long life and deserves to spend their final years comfortable. Make sure no one in their life takes that away from them.

The Purpose of Obituaries

Mental Incompetency and the Patient's Property Act
Obituaries are news article that report the recent death of a person that typically accounts for the person’s life, family members, glowing tributes , noteworthy achievements  and   information about an upcoming funeral service.
It could be said that the main purpose of an  obituary is  to honour and even aggrandize the life of the deceased. They typically subtly guide human behaviour as how to behave  in life and how to be favourably remembered.
Three coincidental matters relating to obituaries came to my attention yesterday.
One was a review of the New York Times setting comprehensive and glowing life tributes  of various socialites and significant individuals.
The second was an obituary of an elderly man who died in Texas, whose daughter and family wrote a vitriolic obituary stating amongst other things that he lived “much longer than he deserved”;
The third was a forthcoming movie entitled “The Last Word”, starring Shirley MacClain who as a controlling businesswoman hires a journalist to pre-write her obituary, only to find that the typical comment offered by her “friends” and  associates is that they hope she dies soon. This results in a life altering experience  for Ms. MacLain’s character.
Most of us are familiar with what an obituary is and have probably seen or even written a “typical” obituary in local newspapers as well as perhaps reviewed  the more refined,expensive and extensive obituaries that appear in publications such as the New York Times. Many magazines such as MacLeans or the Economist publish one full page obituary each week typically reflecting on the subject’s life and influence on world history. It is not uncommon for major world figures, heroes, entertainers, and such to have “pre written” obituaries for quick publication in the event of that person’s demise.
In my experience as an estate litigation lawyer I frequently ask my clients to bring in the obituary as it is common for me to note that they are not always “accurate” in that often certain  members of the   family are not mentioned at all or some other hurtful comment is made or omitted about them.
The vitriolic Texan obituary  was so newsworthy that it made international news for stating such things as ” his hobbies included being abusive to his family, expediting trips to heaven for the beloved family pets, his life serve no obvious purpose, he did not contribute to society or service the community and he possessed no redeeming qualities besides sarcasm.
Not content to stop there, the writer further  stated that there would be no funeral service, no prayers for eternal peace and no apologizes to the family he tortured.
His remains would be cremated and kept in the barn until the family donkey’s wood shavings run out. His passing proved that evil does in fact die and hopefully marks a time of healing and safety for all.
The writer stated that the deceased appreciated honesty and that it would have been offensive to portray him dishonestly.

Potential Inheritance Amounts to Rise

Potential Inheritance Amounts to Rise

Spouses and children of deceased people who are disinherited in BC have the ability to utilize the provisions of S 60 WESA to vary the will in their favour.

This huge inter generational wealth transfer will have important economic consequences that will impact wealth distribution, debt reduction ,  savings and the real estate market.

Canadians are living longer and in many cases, accumulating more wealth.

There are about 2.5 million Canadians over age 75, close to 45 per cent of them widowed. The number of Canadians 75 and older has jumped 25 per cent from a decade ago and the figure is expected to continue increasing.

When  I did estate disinheritance cases in the 1990’s, a typical estate was a house worth $150,000 and savings or pensions of another $100,000.

In recent years, the typical size of a Vancouver estate was about $1.5 million, and depending on real estate, often much larger.

It is known that the “Bank of Mom and Dad ” has been busy making large advances on inheritances in recent years, typically for assisting their children to buy housing. This trend is expected to continue as housing prices soar beyond the means of average income earners.

The transfer of wealth will help the retirement security of low- and middle-income Canadians, but is likely to have little impact on the decision of wealthy Canadians to retire early, because they don’t need the money. Many workers such as myself continue to work beyond the former magic mark of 65 years, simply because they enjoy their work and thus will continue to increase their wealth.

RIP Partner Pete

RIP Partner Pete

It is with deep sadness that Trevor Todd and disinherited.com announce the passing of Partner Pete C.C on January 23, 2016 at the age of 13 after bravely fighting an incurable liver disease.

He will be missed.

Pete understood the personal problems faced by our disinherited clients and the dysfunctional world that they often come from.

Pete himself was passed over time and time again until we accepted him at 18 months of age. Apparently even his own mother seriously disliked  Pete, but we all came to love him and adopt him as not only family, but as a partner in my law practice. He was a black sheep amongst 23 fox terriers in the kennel.

Pete and I never disagreed at partnership meetings, he would enthusiastically wag his tail at my every suggestion provided then he was given a biscuit.

My clients also seemed to genuinely love Pete.

More biographical information can be read about Pete on my website .

I am taking applicants for a new associate dog with a long term view of partnership. If any of my readers have any suggestions about a great office/town house smaller dog other than a terrier, or as I came to call them ” terrorists” (I have had three fox terriers thanks). My inclination is a King Charles Spaniel, as per  Nancy Reagan’s dog.

Donations in Pete’s honour in favour of the SPCA would be greatly appreciated.

RIP Partner Pete

Trevor Todd to Chair and Speak at WESA Conference June 6

The WESA conference: Everything a trial lawyer needs to know about the Wills, Estates and Succession Act.

Opening Comments
R. TREVOR TODD, disinherited.com, Vancouver

View From a Very Knowledgeable Bench

THE HON. MADAME JUSTICE SANDRA BALLANCE, Supreme Court of BC, Vancouver THE HON. MADAME JUSTICE JANE DARDI, Supreme Court of BC, Vancouver

Solicitor’s View: WESA-Wise Planning – The Highs and the Lows
ANDREA E. FRISBY, Legacy Tax & Trust Lawyers, Vancouver

Litigator’s View: The Floodgates Have Opened
TARA R. BRITNELL, Hamilton Duncan Armstrong & Stewart, Surrey

Where There is No Will, There May be a Way:
Do Sections 58 and 59 now Unleash a Litigation Tsunami?
MARK WEINTRAUB, Clark Wilson LLP, Vancouver

Intestacy: Update on the Major Changes to the Parentelic Distribution Scheme, Changes for Spouses & the Spousal Home
EDWARD F. MACAU LAY, Edward F. Macaulay Law Corporation, Vancouver

Family Meets WESA: What You Don’t Know Will Hurt You
CAN DACE CHO, Onyx Law Group, Vancouver JUDITH A. JANZEN, Onyx Law Group, Vancouver

Beneficiary Designations:
Which Designated Assets are now Subject to WESA Redistribution?
JOHN W. BILAWICH, Holmes & King, Vancouver

Rule on Rules and Procedure
STANLEY RULE, Sabey Rule LLP, Kelowna

Undue Influence: Shift In Burden of Proof Means More Plaintiffs Wins
R. TREVOR TODD, disinherited.com, Vancouver
Closing Remarks