Monday, August 03, 2009

Waldman v. Blumes

Wills Variation Act claims in British Columbia frequently involve balancing the competing claims of a spouse from a second marriage to the testator with the claims of adult children from a prior marriage. This is difficult enough. It is more complicated when there are relatively young children from the second marriage.

Dr. Joseph Blumes died in 2006 at the age of 91. He left surviving him his wife Esther Blumes who is 60 years old, his daughters from his first marriage, Vallry Waldman and Joy De La Ren, and his two sons from his marriage to Esther Blumes, Jacob Blumes and Jedidiah Blumes. Dr. Blumes’ daughters are in their sixties, while his sons are 18 and 20 years old (and were three years younger when their father died).

At his death, the net value of Dr. Blumes’ estate was approximately $1.2 million, after taking into account capital gains taxes if his assets were sold. Before his death, he had transferred the matrimonial home, worth approximately $1,000,000, to his wife. In addition to the matrimonial home, Esther Blumes also owned interests in real estate worth over a $1,000,000.

In his will, Dr. Blumes left his entire estate to Esther Blumes.

Madam Justice Gerow in Waldman v. Blumes, 2009 BCSC 1012, analyzed the competing claims of Dr. Blumes family members in deciding a Wills Variation Act claim, commenced by Vallry Waldman.

Dr. Blumes’ two daughters argued that their father had a moral obligation to leave something to them. Most of his wealth was acquired during his marriage of 48 years to their mother. On her death, their mother left her estate to Dr. Blumes. Ms. De Le Ren also argued that she was financially in need, but she did not adequately corroborate this to establish need.

On the other hand, Dr. Blumes had assisted his daughters during his lifetime by contributing to their education and providing funds to assist them when they were young adults.

From Esther Blumes’ perspective, Dr. Blumes had both legal and moral obligations to her. There marriage was a long one. Despite his advanced age, she had children with his encouragement, and made sacrifices to her career as a lawyer, working part-time rather than full time, for her family.

Dr. Blumes’ sons argued that they were still dependent, and would likely have years of education ahead of them. The moral obligations of a parent to a dependent child are higher than the obligations to an independent adult child.

In the result, Madam Justice Gerow made a modest variation of Dr. Blumes’ will to provide each of his daughters with $75,000.

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