Saturday, August 26, 2006

An Odd Case in the Credenza

I am sitting on my chair, facing my computer at my office. My desk is at my left, and my credenza is at my right. Inside my credenza are many file folders with photocopies of cases.

The file folders sometimes have topic labels on them such as “testamentary capacity,” “wills interpretation,” and “WVA [Wills Variation Act]." Some of them just say “research” on them. When I finish working on a case and close the case file, I take the photocopies of cases out of the case file, and put them in my credenza. I can then refer to the cases later.

Some of the files are stacked on one another, and some are vertical. At one time, several years ago, the files were organized alphabetically, by topic. Not now. Still, I do find what I am looking for, but I doubt anyone else could.

I am planning to work on a post on undue influence today. I am opening my credenza, in search of a folder with undue influence cases.

I see a folder marked “odd cases.” I can’t recall why I collected odd cases in a folder. I am intrigued. I will take a look.

Here is an old Ontario case called Lasby v. Crewson (1891), 21 O.R. 93 (Ch. D).

In 1891, Chancellor Boyd interpreted the following clause in Oliver Lasby’s will:

When my youngest son is of the age of eighteen years, my estate . . shall be divided among my children then living, that is to say, to each of my sons I leave two-thirds, and to each of my daughters, one-third of all my estate and effects.
After Oliver Lasby died, when his youngest son attained the age of 18, Oliver Lasby had twelve children then living.

In his judgment, Boyd C. remarked,

The will is said to be the work of a schoolmaster; his notions of fractions are peculiar, but it is a relief to think he belonged to a past generation, as the document dates back to 1859.
The court considered three possible interpretations:
1. The fractions were nonsensical, and the children should share equally;
2. The sons should share two-thirds of the estate, and the daughters one-third;
3. The estate should be divided so that each son should receive double the portion of each daughter.

Chancellor Boyd found that the testator intended to give each son double the portion given to each daughter. He held that the estate should be divided into seventeenths, with ten-seventeenths shared among the sons, and seven-seventeenths shared among the daughters.

It seems to me that here have been a few peculiar notions of fractions expressed in homemade wills since Boyd C. issued this judgment more than a century ago.

I really ought to organize my credenza. Not today though. It is a sunny Saturday in the Okanagan.

The undue influence post will have to wait.

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