Sunday, March 28, 2010

Rose v. Bloomfield

In Rose v. Bloomfield, 2010 BCSC 315, Mr. Justice Cohen varied the will of Marika Crayne pursuant to British Columbia’s Wills Variation Act to provide her common-law spouse of 21 years with 70 per cent of her estate. The reasons for judgment do not state the value of the estate, but from the description of the assets it appears to be in the range of $250,000 to $300,000.

In her will, Marika Crayne left her common-law spouse Stanley Rose with $6000. The reside was left one percent to St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, and one-third of the other 99 percent to a nephew, one-third to a niece, and one-sixth to each of her grandnephews.

She signed a new will leaving her estate to Mr. Rose before she died, but it was not witnessed in compliance with the Wills Act.

The residual beneficiaries of the will argued that the will should not be varied. Each of Marika Crayne and Stanley Rose had wills leaving most of their estate to others. Mr. Rose assets were worth about five times as much as Ms. Crayne. They argued that Mr. Rose had not contributed to her assets, most of which were inherited. They further argued that Mr. Rose was provided for by the Canada Pension Plan survivor's benefits.

Mr. Justice Cohen rejected the residual beneficiaries’ arguments. He considered Mr. Rose’s care of Ms. Crayne, his financial sacrifices and needs, and the fact that Ms. Crayne had no legal or moral duty to the beneficiaries. He wrote:

[72] The length of the parties’ common law relationship was 21 years. During their relationship, they shared their joint resources for their mutual benefit and lifestyle; they shared common expenses, contributed money and monies worth, and shared domestic tasks. The fact that they did not keep a strict accounting between them and that they had separate bank accounts is, as the plaintiff submits, hardly unusual.

[73] The plaintiff used his savings during the years that the deceased was unemployed and unable to contribute very much towards the parties’ expenses and, as the plaintiff submits, using his inheritance, earnings and savings for the deceased’s benefit deprived him of an opportunity to create more assets for himself.

[74] The evidence is that the plaintiff devoted himself to the care of the deceased for the period from the year 2005 until her passing and supported her emotionally during her cancer treatments and other medical care.

[75] The deceased had neither a legal or moral obligation to the defendants, nor did she have a close relationship with them. On the other hand, the plaintiff’s son considered the deceased his step-mother, and both he and the plaintiff testified about the close and loving relationship they all had with the deceased’s mother. The plaintiff’s son described the four of them as “a family”.

[80] While the plaintiff obtained survivor’s benefits when the deceased passed away, it is not accurate to state that his gross monthly pension was thereby increased because he lost the GAIN supplement for which he, as a senior, had been eligible after he obtained the survivor’s benefits. I agree with the plaintiff’s position that the deceased’s legal and moral obligation was to provide for the plaintiff in the Will, not to rely upon the state to do so.

[81] I also agree with the plaintiff’s position that because the correct approach in the application of the Act is not one of a benefit/detriment analysis, neither the defendants’ submissions regarding the various benefits and detriments received by each party, nor the argument that the plaintiff made no contribution to the plaintiff’s inherited assets is relevant. Moreover, the plaintiff’s net worth in relation to that of the deceased is not a factor.

[82] The plaintiff testified about his expenses including property tax, home insurance, current and future expenses for medical supplies, repairs, improvements and alterations to his house, etc. The plaintiff’s uncontradicted evidence was that he could not afford to meet these expenses on his income alone. I am satisfied that the plaintiff has established, on the balance of probabilities, that his financial resources are inadequate to meet or sustain the quality of life he enjoyed during his relationship with the deceased. Furthermore, the onus is not on the plaintiff to prove that he cannot meet his current and future needs by using up all of his investments and assets prior to his death. He is not obligated to reduce his already modest lifestyle.

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