Rawlins v Rawlins 2023 BCSC 466 deals with a very common factual scenario in estate litigation, namely, the sibling who spends most of his or her time living at home with his/her parents, ultimately providing personal care in latter years, and seeking additional compensation for having done so.
The other siblings typically see the sibling as being somewhat of a freeloader, living rent and board free for most of his or her life and then only providing minimal care for a short period of time.
The evidence is typically very conflicting as it was in the Rawlins case.
There were three male children born of Mr. and Mrs. Rawlins, who prepared wills in 1977, providing for an equal share between their three sons. The father lived to be 93 and the mother passed away at 85.
One son ( Doug) lived his entire life in the matrimonial home and had a sporadic work record, with his longest employment being that by one of his siblings under parental pressure to provide same.
After that business closed in 2014 the caregiver brother Doug chose to stay at home and look after his elderly parents on a full-time basis. The estate was primarily the family home and was valued at approximately $2.4 million, which would provide approximately $800,000 to each of the three male children.
The reasons for judgment are lengthy due to a close examination of what contributions were made by Doug to the estate, and what personal care was provided to his parents and for what duration.
The court did not apply the law relating to wills variation and instead focused on the plaintiffs claim for unjust enrichment.
The court found that the plaintiff did provide material benefits to the estate of his late mother from the personal care services that he provided to each of his parents in their final years, but that the estate did not receive any benefit from Doug’s allege contributions towards the actual property itself.
The court found that the personal care services that Doug rendered to his parents and their final years involved a deprivation to Doug and that there was no juristic reason for Doug’s enrichment of his mother’s estate in the form of personal care services as he had no contractual, law or statutory duty to provide personal care services for his elderly parents.
The court concluded that Doug’s deceased mother had a legal duty toward Doug in the form of an unjust enrichment claim based on his provision of personal care for both yourself and your late husband are in their final years.
The court particularly examined both the pros and the cons of a child who decides to stay at home and lived with one’s parents, as opposed to moving out and embarking on his or her own journey outside of the parental home.
Interesting enough, the court stated that in making their lifestyle choice to stay at home that he did, Doug deprived himself of any impetus to grow his own nest egg. His brothers, by contrast, move out of the family home acquired their own houses and were largely, if not entirely financially independent.
The court concluded that Doug should be awarded a sum of $115,000 for the years that he cared for his parents, based on $25,000 per year for the three years that he cared for his mother, and $40,000 for the two years that he cared for his mother at another time. He was further ordered to pay two thirds of the total of the unpaid property taxes for the five years that he resided in the home after the death of his last parent.