Sunday, August 03, 2008

MacKinlay v. MacKinlay Estate

Richard MacKinlay was a recluse. He had no TV or telephone. He had no spouse or children. He lived in the country in Ontario. He saved and invested his money. When he was 84, he had $350,000 that he didn’t need.

The lawsuit I am writing about isn’t a dispute about Richard MacKinlay’s estate (at least not directly), but bear with me.

Richard wrote to his brother, John MacKinlay, who lived in British Columbia and was nine years younger than he. Richard MacKinlay asked his brother if he would dish it out “to any of the family who might be short of funds." When Richard MacKinlay sent the funds, he included a note to John MacKinlay, which said: “I understand that the cost of higher education is going thru the roof so maybe you could set up some trust funds etc. but it is up to you to do what’s best (or booze it away if you wish).”

John MacKinlay had three sons from his first marriage and a daughter from his second. He later married Iris MacKinlay. His three sons were quite well off, each having family assets of over a million dollars, and family incomes ranging from $147,000 to $350,000 per annum. His daughter was not as wealthy.

When his sons heard about the funds their uncle had sent their father, they wanted their father to divide up the funds among his children and grandchildren. They contacted their uncle about it. John MacKinlay resented their interference. He wanted to use it to assist those who were in need.

John MacKinlay did distribute about $90 thousand among nieces and nephews and his daughter. But sadly there was a rift between him and his three sons.

When he died on May 24, 2006, John MacKinlay’s estate consisted of investments worth approximately $284,000. Some of the investments were derived from funds he received from Richard MacKinlay.

In his will, John MacKinlay left his widow, Iris MacKinlay, his entire estate. She also owned the matrimonial home. She was in her sixties, recovering from cancer, and her expenses exceeded her income of $36,000 per year.

John MacKinlay’s children sued in the Supreme Court of British Columbia under the Wills Variation Act. They alleged that their father did not make adequate provision for them. If the court agreed, the court could award them an amount that was adequate, just and equitable in the circumstances.

Mr. Justice Savage in MacKinlay v. MacKinlay Estate, 2008 BCSC 994, dismissed the children’s claim. John MacKinlay had legal and moral obligations to his wife. These obligations were stronger than his moral obligations to his children. The court considered the modest size of the estate and Mrs. MacKinlay’s financial needs. John MacKinlay’s sons, in contrast to his wife, were all financially well off. Although his daughter was not as financially well off as his sons, John MacKinlay had given her over $50,000 during the last few years of his life.

Mr. Justice Savage concluded that John MacKinlay’s decision to leave his entire estate to his wife was “within the range of possible dispositions that was adequate, just and equitable.”

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