Canada: Court Voids Testamentary Bequest To Neo-Nazi Group As Against Public Policy – What About Life Insurance Bequests?

Last Updated: October 10 2014
Article by David Graves

On June 5, 2014 the NB Court of Queen's Bench decided the gift an NB man left to the US-based National Alliance (NA) in his will is void because both the information the NA disseminates and the NA's purpose are against public policy.

The decision makes it clear that there are limits to both what a person can leave her money for and to whom she leaves it. But the decision does not expressly answer the next obvious question: would it make any difference if she left it some other way – for example, by naming the beneficiary in her life insurance policy?


Mr. McCorkill left all of his estate to the NA in his will. After Mr. McCorkill died, his sister asked the Court to void the bequest on the basis it was illegal and/or against public policy because the NA and its activities breach Canadian law. The NA denied this and argued that regardless, the Court could not void the gift based on the beneficiary's identity, only the specific purposes attached to the bequest – and there were none.

In strongly worded and unequivocal reasons, the NB Court of Queen's Bench decided the bequest to the NA is invalid. No other Canadian Court is required to follow the decision, but could choose to do so because it is based on Canadian laws (the Criminal Code of Canada, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, international conventions to which Canada is a party, and Provincial human rights laws generally) that apply across Canada:

  • Hate Propoganda. McCorkill's sister submitted extensive evidence about the NA's purposes and activities – and based on it, the Court decided the information the NA disseminates is "hate propaganda".
  • Not in Canada. Dissemination of the NA's writings might be legal in the US – but it is illegal in Canada: public incitement of hatred is a criminal offence here.
  • Against Public Policy.  Activity that is illegal – and also contrary to the values of the Canadian Charter of Rights, Provincial human rights laws and international conventions promoting equality and dignity of the person and prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race and ethnic origin – is against Canadian and NB public policy. 
  • The Character of the Beneficiary.  The evidence proved that the NA's identity was indistinguishable from the purpose for which Mr. McCorkill intended the bequest to be used: the only thing the NA would or could do with the bequest was be to further its illegal purposes.    

Read the NB Court of Queen's Bench's decision in McCorkill v. Streed, Executor of the Estate of Harry Robert McCorkill (aka McCorkell), Deceased, 2014 NBQB 148 (PDF) here.


The obvious next question – at least for insurers – which the Court did not expressly answer is whether it makes a difference how you leave your money:

  • What if Mr. McCorkill had left a life insurance policy in which the NA (or a similar group) was the named beneficiary? 
  • Would the insurer have any obligation to determine whether the bequest is against public policy before paying the policy out? 

We aren't aware of any Canadian court decision considering these specific questions. But there are some general rules and legislative provisions that provide insurers with some guidance for how to handle the public policy issue of a hate group (or the like) beneficiary in a life insurance policy – albeit do not give a cut and dry answer for most insurers:

Common Law. Courts do apply public policy considerations in respect of life insurance policies.  For instance, there is a public policy rule that a person cannot benefit from a crime. Therefore, a husband who intentionally kills his wife cannot obtain her life insurance proceeds (Oldfield v. Transamerica Life Insurance Co. of Canada, 2002 SCC 22). The rule does not apply if the person is not criminally responsible (Dhingra v Dhingra's Estate, 2012 ONCA 261).

Legislation. The Insurance Acts of BC and Alberta explicitly provide that an insurer may pay life insurance proceeds into court if the designated beneficiary would be disentitled on public policy or other grounds; similar provisions will soon be in place in Ontario as well (Insurance Act, R.S.B.C. 2012, c. 1, s. 82(1)(e); Insurance Act, R.S.A. 2000, c. I-3, s. 684(1)(e); Insurance Act, R.S.O. 1990, c I.8, s. 214). Other Provinces may adopt similar provisions in the future – but in the meantime insurers will need to seek guidance elsewhere in the applicable Insurance Acts:

  • Sufficient Evidence for Payment. Normally, an insurer is only concerned with satisfying itself that the requirements under the relevant Insurance Act for making payment are satisfied.  Where an insurer receives sufficient evidence of certain conditions it shall, within 30 days, pay the insurance money to the person entitled thereto. One of these conditions is the "the right of the claimant to receive payment."  This condition may afford a life insurer concerned about a hate group's entitlement to receive payment with an opportunity to have a court determine whether the bequest could be void for public policy reasons: most Insurance Acts provide that where an insurer admits the validity of the life insurance, but does not admit the sufficiency of the evidence required for payment, the insurer may apply to the court for a declaration regarding the sufficiency of the evidence furnished.
  • Death by Accident. Most Insurance Acts provide that in the case of death by accident the insurer may set up any defence it could have set up against the insured or his personal representative.  Does this mean, in the case of a bequest to a hate group, that the insurer can set up a defence that the beneficiary is not entitled to receive payment on public policy grounds? There appears to be some protection to an insurer which makes payment in the case of an accident by death policy. The Insurance Act of Nova Scotia, for instance, protects an insurer which makes payment before receiving an order of the court affecting the rights of the individual to receive insurance money.  This provision, however, does not appear in the case of a life insurance policy without accidental death provisions.
  • Adverse Claimaints. It is perhaps easier for an insurer if there are adverse claimants who raise the public policy consideration and dispute the entitlement of a hate group to receive the insurance monies, such as the heirs in McCorkill Estate.  Most Insurance Acts allow the insurer to apply for an ex parte order to pay the money into court if there are adverse claimants. 

McInnes Cooper prepared this article for information; it is not legal advice. Consult McInnes Cooper before acting on it. McInnes Cooper excludes all liability for anything contained in or any use of this article. © McInnes Cooper, 2014. All rights reserved.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions