The following is a short story based on true events that
happened to clients of mine. It is intended to show the importance
of having a will in place.
Clients John and Sally, aged 58 and 56, had two adult daughters,
Marie and Julie. Marie was married to Paul, and they had a
1-year-old baby boy named Danny; they were both employed and living
happy lives as a new family. Julie was single, had fallen on hard
times financially and was living on welfare.
One day, John and Sally called the office to inform us that
Marie, Paul and Danny were involved in a head-on collision with an
impaired driver on the main street of their small community. Both
Marie and Paul were killed instantly, but miraculously, baby Danny
was pulled from the back seat uninjured.
Marie and Paul had never gotten around to completing a will, and
because of this, as per BC law, Danny was immediately appointed a
public trustee as his guardian. John and Sally sought legal advice
as they wanted to apply for guardianship of their grandchild. After
discussing options with the lawyer, due to John and Sally's
age, he advised them to have Julie apply to be Danny's
As the story of the accident and Danny's life being spared
made headline news across the province, a couple in a nearby town
who had been trying to adopt for some time heard the story and
applied to become the guardians for Danny as well.
In court, the lawyer asked Julie how she was going to be able to
support Danny, since she was single and on welfare. At this point,
John jumped up out of frustration and announced that Marie and Paul
had a life insurance policy for $250,000 to go to Danny and that
would help cover any financial burdens. The judge scolded John for
his outburst and explained that the money was Danny's and
should not be counted on as the only means to support him.
The other couple who had been seeking custody of Danny had been
married for several years and were financially successful. Due to
these circumstances, with Danny's well-being in mind, the judge
awarded Danny to the other couple.
After being awarded custody of Danny, the couple also sought to
become the trustees of Danny's death benefit and were awarded
that as well.
My clients spent most of their life savings attempting to have
the ruling overturned to allow them to keep their grandchild, but
it was all to no avail. John and Sally could no longer deal with
the losses and ended up moving away. It was not long after this
that John was diagnosed with cancer and passed away a short time
If Marie and Paul had completed a will and named a guardian and
trustee for Danny, perhaps there would have been a happier ending.
Wills are like "love notes" telling the people we love
that we care about them.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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On March 31, 2014, BC's new Wills, Estates and Succession Act1 ("WESA") will come into force. WESA introduces new protections for beneficiaries of estates that are in danger of being disputed or deemed ineffective by a court.
It is not uncommon for parents to provide monetary gifts to their adult children. Parents may wish to help their child with a down payment on a property, or help pay out their child's existing mortgage.
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