April 25, 2021

It’s that time of year again. Birds are singing, trees are blossoming, and spring is just around the corner. With 2020 fully in the rear-view mirror, now is the perfect time for a review of 20 notable cases decided in that year. (Okay, it’s technically 23 cases, but who’s counting?)

  1. The Sherman Estate trilogy:

Our list begins federally. The 2017 homicides of billionaire couple, Barry and Honey Sherman, captured the attention of the nation. The tragedy spawned a trilogy of cases which attempt to balance sensitivity towards the family of the victims, their right to privacy, and the right of the fourth estate.

The decision of the Canadian Supreme Court has yet to be released. Now is a good time to revisit the initial Ontario Superior Court decision, and the subsequent Court of Appeal decision, alongside the accompanying motion for stay of pending appeal.


  1. Gregoire v. Cordani, 2020 BCSC 276 (CanLII)

Moving from west to east, this is an interesting British Columbia case regarding whether a suicide note can be a valid will. This case is an excellent example of the court’s use of powers granted by substantive compliance legislation (specifically, section 58 of B.C.’s Wills, Estates and Succession Act). As suggested by my colleague Joanna Lindenberg (see her excellent blog), it might be viewed as a companion case to Ontario’s McGrath v. Joy. Check out my blog on the same.


  1. Bergler v. Odenthal, 2020 BCCA 175 (CanLII)

Cases which involve a “secret trust” are rare. This particular case deals with a scenario that led to the finding of a secret trust on intestacy and provides good illustration for the rule that a secret trust will sever a joint tenancy.


  1. Munro v. James, 2020 BCSC 1348

A must-read for fans of equestrian care and contract remedies. Can one be contractually obliged to name certain people as heirs of one’s estate? This decision goes into wonderful detail on an analysis of unique facts, and even a thoughtful analysis on farm management (with much detail regarding the Tansy Ragwort).


  1. Jacobson Estate (Re), 2020 BCSC 1280

What happens when two people who were in a marriage-like relationship for 30 years, become separated and therefore become ineligible to receive under the other’s estate? Do the testamentary gifts left by one for the other still count? In addition to Gregoire v. Cordani, this case is an excellent illustration of the usefulness of substantive compliance legislation, and the power of section 58 of B.C.’s Wills, Estates and Succession Act.


  1. Scurek v. Scurek, 2020 BCSC 450

Can a father leave his testamentary assets any way he wants? Or can the court step in to ensure that he provides for those who are morally dependant on him? This case highlights the policy balance between testamentary freedom and equitable restrictions surrounding it. This is an interesting read for those interested in the rights of persons with disabilities.


  1. Lamont Estate, 2020 ABQB 449

Moving from B.C. to Alberta, this case deals with the same situation as Scurek v. Scurek. Unlike in Scurek, the court found that a father’s testamentary plans had left enough to an adult dependant child suffering from disability. While a beneficiary with disability is entitled to adequate level of care, they are not always entitled to their specific choice of accommodation. One might be entitled to adequate amounts for rent from the proceeds of the sale of the testator’s home, but not to stay in that particular home against the testator’s wishes.


  1. Egal v. Shafat, 2020 ABCA 50

This case arises from an airplane crash in Ethiopia in April of 2019. Can the father of the deceased’s children, who was not married to the deceased (but had participated in a local religious marriage ceremony together), become the personal representative of the deceased in bringing a claim against Boeing? This is a fascinating read for those interested in the intersection of estates, personal injury, and insurance law.


  1. Adams Estate v. Wilson, 2020 SKCA 38

Moving eastward from Alberta to Saskatchewan, does the neighbour of a deceased have standing to challenge a will? What if this neighbour was promised by the deceased testatrix certain amounts in return for neighbourly help, but never received the money? This case is a great reminder for estates litigators on the importance of standing in a will challenge.


  1. Gust v. Langan, 2020 SKQB 42

Can a will written on a McDonald’s napkin be a valid one? Check out my April 14th blog on this case.


  1. Goby v. Frederick, 2020 SKQB 201

With great powers come great responsibilities. Can an individual unilaterally renounce their appointment as the executor of an estate, after receiving probate? Read on to find out.


  1. Durand v. Durand, 2020 MBQB 70

Moving from Saskatchewan to Manitoba, this case deals with a similar situation as Goby v. Frederick. However, instead of addressing renouncement of an executor, this court had occasion to address the removal of an executor for failing to act neutrally and failing to put the beneficiary’s interests ahead of his own.


  1. Lima v. Ventura (Estate of), 2020 ONSC 3278 (CanLII)

This Ontario case suggests that procedural timelines set out in court orders must be respected, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.


  1. Calmusky v. Calmusky, 2020 ONSC 1506 (CanLII)

This case has garnered wide attention in Ontario. Does the law of resulting trusts apply broadly to RRIF and insurance beneficiary designation? The Ontario Bar Association has proposed legislative amendments in the wake of this case.


  1. McGrath v. Joy, 2020 ONSC 7454 (CanLII)

Can a suicide note be considered a valid will in Ontario? Under the tragic circumstances of this case, will it be considered a valid will? See my colleague Rebecca Studin’s excellent blog on the same.


  1. Williams v. Breau, 2020 NBQB 85

Turning to New Brunswick, this fascinating case demonstrates several reasons for which an estate trustee could be removed. As demonstrated in the above Manitoba case of Durand v. Durand, courts in Canada are unanimous in their requirement for estate trustees to be neutral above all else.


  1. (to 19) The MAID Trilogy

This is a trilogy of cases taking place in Nova Scotia regarding Medical Assistance in Dying, also known as MAID or Bill C-14, which formally legalized assisted dying and laid out new rules on how eligibility can be assessed.

Read about the case which began the trilogy here, the accompanying motion for stay here, and the final decision on appeal here.


  1. Jackson Estate v. Young, 2020 NSSC 5 (CanLII)

Here, the Nova Scotia Supreme Court had to determine whether the exclusion of common law spouses from intestate inheritance under the Intestate Succession Act, violated Section 15(1) of the Charter.

Ultimately, the court found that though it infringed Section 15(1), it was justified under Section 1 of the Charter.


Happy Reading!