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Posts tagged ‘estates’

Ever wonder what happens if you die without a will? – video

 

Wednesday’s Video Clip: Ever wonder what happens if you die without a will?

This LawPro video emphasizes how preparing a will can avoid a lot of headaches. As stated in the video, a surprising 65% of Canadians don’t have a will. Everyone should consider getting a lawyer to help them prepare a will if they don’t have one, or to review any will that hasn’t been updated recently.

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders. For more information, visit us at www.RussellAlexander.com.

Estate Planning for Reptile-Lovers: Who Inherits the Crocodiles?

Estate Planning for Reptile-Lovers: Who Inherits the Crocodiles?

An unusual Ontario case involving a man who owned almost 200 reptiles has highlighted the importance of making a Will.

Karel Fortyn, was a Welland, Ontario man who owned nearly 200 exotic reptiles.  Among them were two Orinoco crocodiles (kept in a tank with three-inch thick bulletproof glass), Namibian coral snakes, Ceylonese palm pit vipers, Bolivian lanceheads, Monitor lizards, Indian cobras, a Gila monster, a ball python, and a Taiwan beauty snake.  Karel was a true “character”:  he had an unbridled passion for exotic pets, set up a zoo for the public in his own house, and engaged in frequent legal battles with the city of Welland, which sought to enforce a by-law against keeping exotic creatures.

Karel’s passion became a pressing issue, however, when he died unexpectedly at the age of 52 from a massive stroke.  Unfortunately, Karel did not leave a Will.  This being the case, he had not named an Executor for his estate and left no directions as to how he wanted his estate divided.   More importantly, he gave no indication as to how he wanted his collection of exotic pets to be dealt with and cared for after his death.

Because Karel died intestate (i.e. without leaving a Will) his assets – including the reptiles – were subject to distribution according to the provisions of the Succession Law Reform Act, which essentially sets out a detailed hierarchy in terms of who is entitled to the assets and in what measure.    

In particular, the Act dictated that ownership of Karel’s reptiles would be awarded to his next-of-kin using the following formula:

1) If Karel was married with no children, then everything goes to his spouse.

2) If Karel had a spouse and children, then his spouse gets the first $200,000 of his estate, with the remainder being divided amongst the wife and any children (with proportions governed by how many children there are).

3) If Karel was not married, then everything gets divided equally amongst his children.

4) If Karel had no children, then his estate goes to his parents equally.

5) If his parents died before him, then Karel’s estate goes to his siblings equally.

6) If there are no siblings alive, then the estate goes to Karel’s nephews and nieces equally.

7) If there no nephews or nieces, then it goes to other relatives in a statutorily-defined order.

8 ) If there are no other next of kin, Karel’s estate goes to the Crown.

As it turns out, Karel was survived by only one sibling, a brother named Jan.   Still, the matter had to go to court over certain disputed issues between  Jan and the estate’s administrators.   Ultimately, after a six-week trial, full ownership of the reptiles was awarded to Jan who donated almost all of Karel’s cherished reptile collection portions to two Ontario reptile zoos.

Leaving aside the handy refresher on the law relating to intestacy, I’m just glad I don’t have a brother who’s into reptiles, because I certainly wouldn’t want to inherit almost 200 of them.

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders.  For more information, visit us at  www.RussellAlexander.com

Court Orders Paternity Test in Bid to Disinherit Child

Court Orders Paternity Test in Bid to Disinherit Child

In the recent Ontario Court decision of Proulx v. Kelly the Court  grappled with an interesting paternity question arising from an estates matter. The deceased had died without a will, and his only sibling (a sister) had applied to be the administrator of the estate. She wanted to prevent a young woman named Shauna – who claimed to be the deceased’s daughter – from inheriting anything from him. The deceased had been married to Shauna’s mother at the time she was born, but they divorced long ago.

The issue was whether DNA testing could or should be ordered by a court. (Apparently there was some DNA evidence still available from the deceased that could be tested.)

The matter arose under a little-used section of the Children’s Law Reform Act (“CLRA”) which allows anyone to apply to a court for a declaration that a particular male person is the father of a child, or that a particular female person is the mother. There is also a provision that allows anyone involved in a civil proceeding (such as this estates dispute) to apply to get the court’s permission to obtain blood or DNA tests, which can then be used as evidence.

However, the CLRA also contains a “presumption of paternity” section, which presumes paternity of any male who:

• Is married to the mother of a child at the time the child is born;

• Is married to the mother but has died or divorced her within 300 days of the birth;

• Is married the mother after the birth and acknowledges he is the father;

• Was living with the mother in a “relationship of some permanence” at the time of birth, or else stopped living with her within 300 days of the child’s birth;

• Took steps to certify his status as father under the Vital Statistics Act or other similar Canadian legislation; or

• Is recognized as the father by a Canadian court.

The issue was whether, for someone who satisfied any of these criteria, the presumption of paternity had to be rebutted before a court could order DNA testing.

In this case, the deceased had met at least a few of the tests: not only was he married to Shauna’s mother when she was born, but he was also listed as her father on the Statement of Live Birth. However, he never actually signed that document.

On the other hand, there was ample reason to question the deceased’s paternity of Shauna. For example:

• He never recognized Shauna as his natural daughter to his family;

• He told his sister that Shauna was not his;

• He wrote in a journal that he was resentful at Shauna’s mother because “she cheated on me with no sex protection”;

• Other witnesses gave evidence that both before and after Shauna’s birth, he and the mother fought regularly;

• There was never a child support order made for him to pay support for Shauna, and no evidence that support was ever paid by him on a regular basis;

• He saw Shauna infrequently, and almost not at all in her teenage years; and

• His sister attested to the fact that he never recognized Shauna as his daughter.

In any event, from a legal sense the court found that it could order the DNA testing without the deceased having to rebut the “presumption of paternity” provided for by the CLRA. Instead, the court had the authority to order DNA testing any time paternity was in question.

Moreover, on the merits the court found that DNA testing was warranted here, and granted leave. In doing so, it took particular note of the fact that there was almost a complete lack of evidence from the one person who would know Shauna’s paternity – the mother. It also observed that DNA testing was a minimally-invasive procedure that would cleanly bring an end to the dispute over the estate once and for all.

See the full text of the Court’s decision in Proulx v. Kelly, 2010 ONSC 5817 (CanLII) at http://bit.ly/gzVrII

Further information on family law and related issues is also available on our main website www.russellalexander.com