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Over-Medication of Long-Term Care Residents

Posted in Uncategorized

According to a study released earlier this month by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, up to one third of residents at Ontario long-term care facilities are being prescribed dangerous antipsychotics and sedatives.  The study suggests that 45% of residents between the ages of 65 and 79 at nearly 300 different homes in the province are over-medicated with drugs that can cause falls, bedsores, blood clots, and potentially-fatal reactions to the drugs themselves.

Medications, such as diazepam and lorazepam, are ordinarily administered to prevent patients with dementia from wandering.  While these drugs are typically used to sedate residents who may be otherwise become aggressive or difficult to control, the potential side effects of over-medication include death.

A recent article in the Toronto Star described Ethel Geraldine Anderson, an 85 year-old woman with dementia who had been heavily sedated when she suffered a lethal fall.  The Ontario Coroner’s Office concluded that the woman’s death was due, at least in part, to her over-medication.  Ms. Anderson had been given increasing doses of risperidone and other drugs to control her dementia and wandering.  The Coroner’s Office reported that risperidone is an antipsychotic drug that has only been approved in the treatment of severe psychosis, and that it was used inappropriately to prevent Ms. Anderson from wandering the halls of the facility where she lived.

Deb Matthews, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, has stated that one of the Ministry’s priorities going forward is ensuring that medications are appropriately prescribed and administered at long-term care facilities.  Matthews plans to work closely with the medical community to improve care for Ontario seniors, and to avoid such preventable deaths caused by over-medication in the future.

Thank you for reading.

Suzana Popovic-Montag

The Importance of a Power of Attorney – OBA’s Power of Attorney Month

Posted in Uncategorized

Who will make decisions for you when you are unable to make decisions for yourself?

It is almost inevitable that a point will come in your life when you can no longer make important decisions regarding your finances and personal care. By signing a power of attorney while capable, you are able to have your own choice as to an attorney to act on your behalf in the event of incapacity or where you, while capable, are simply unavailable when important decisions must be made.

This month, the Ontario Bar Association (the “OBA”) is promoting the importance of making a power of attorney and has initiated a campaign to promote awareness surrounding this issue. The OBA website has a helpful frequently asked questions portion which answers many questions you may have with respect to drafting a power of attorney.

There are two types of powers of attorney: power of attorney for property and power of attorney for personal care.

A power of attorney for property can step in and make financial decisions on the grantor’s behalf. A power of attorney for personal care makes important decisions, when necessary, regarding the care and well-being of the grantor. This may include where to live or what to eat, as well as hygiene and health care.

A power of attorney for personal care may also have authority to carry out your living will (advance health care directive). A living will contains your instructions about what level of medical care you want in the event that you are unable to express your wishes to your loved ones. A living will can give directions to your family if they are faced with difficult end-of-life choices.

Without a power of attorney, you may not get the proper care you need, or someone other than the person of your choosing will be appointed to make those important decisions on your behalf.

Thanks for reading.

Ian M. Hull

OBA’s Make a Power of Attorney Month

Posted in Uncategorized

At a recent press conference  held at Queen’s Park for the Ontario Bar Association (“OBA”), the OBA announced a new initiative in their partnership with the Trillium Gift of Life Network (“Trillium”). In tandem with Be a Donor Month, the OBA launched Make a Power of Attorney Month on April 1st.

The OBA and Trillium have been working together in recent months to create a tool kit to be used by lawyers in discussing of life and end of life planning. Make a Power of Attorney Month is a further extension of this partnership.

Through Make a Power of Attorney Month, the OBA is encouraging people in Ontario to:

a)    Register your consent to organ and tissue donation at to help save lives at the end of yours;

b)    Make a Power of Attorney so that someone you trust will ensure your donation wishes are carried out when you are no longer able to decide for yourself; and,

c)    Inform your family of your decision.

For further information, please click see a recent OBA press release and the OBA’s Make a Power of Attorney website.

Thank you for reading.

Andrea Buncic

Di Michele v. Di Michele: A recent Ontario Court of Appeal decision and the ensuing concerns

Posted in Uncategorized

The scope of an estate trustee’s power has been highlighted in the recent April 3rd Ontario Court of Appeal decision, Di Michele v. Di Michele, and is causing concern among some practitioners in the field.

In Di Michele v. Di Michele, the deceased directed her house to be equally divided between her three children when she passed away in 1996. However, when her son, Antonio, the estate trustee, was involved in a personal litigation proceeding years later in 2002, he put the property up as security. Antonio subsequently lost the litigation in 2010, and his opponents brought an application for the sale of the house.

The trial judge held that the opponents only had a claim to Antonio’s 1/3 of the house, as the litigation was against Antonio personally, and not in his capacity as estate trustee.

On appeal, however, the ONCA held that Antonio’s opponents had a claim to the entire house. In coming to this decision, the ONCA cited section 63 of the Land Titles Act to come to the conclusion that Antonio was in the same position as if he had become the registered owner of the house under a transfer for valuable consideration, and that as such, he had the right to grant a mortgage over the entire house just as any registered owner could do.

Granting the estate trustee such a broad scope of power as being the true owner of estate property has led to some criticism of the ONCA’s decision. For an interesting discussion of the potential impact that this decision could have on the rights of and protections afforded to beneficiaries, please see the recent Law Times article entitled “Door opened to abuse as beneficiaries left in the cold”.

One thing this case does certainly highlight is the need for any testator’s careful consideration when deciding who (and how many) should be given the broad scope of estate trustee powers over their estate.

Thank you for reading.

Andrea Buncic

Hull on Estates #374 – Removing estate trustees

Posted in Hull on Estates, Hull on Estates, PODCASTS / AUDIO, PODCASTS / TRANSCRIBED, Show Notes

Listen to Hull on Estates #374 – Removing estate trustees

Today on Hull on Estates, Jonathon Kappy and Stuart Clark discuss removing estate trustees, and reference the recent 2013 case, Hawkins v. Hawkins Estate. If you have any questions, please email us at, or leave a comment on our blog page.

Click here for more information on Jonathon Kappy.

Click here for more information on Stuart Clark.

Mickey Rooney’s Legacy

Posted in Elder Law, In the News, Litigation

Most readers will already be aware that Mickey Rooney died on April 6, 2014, at the age of 93.  Last week, the late Mickey Rooney’s family appeared in court to dispute the ultimate disposition of Mr. Rooney’s remains.

Mr. Rooney’s ex-wife, Jan Chamberlain, claims that Rooney would have wanted to be buried in a cemetery plot beside her.  Chamberlain has been estranged from Mr. Rooney since 2011, when allegations surfaced with respect to elder abuse by her son, Mickey’s step-son and conservator at the time.  Michael Augustine, who had since been Mr. Rooney’s conservator, comparable to what is known in Canada as a court-appointed guardian, insists that Rooney be buried in a veteran’s cemetery or an exclusive cemetery available only to late Hollywood actors.

In Ontario, an estate trustee has control over the final resting place of the deceased’s body.  Few safeguards are in place to ensure that remains are disposed of in a way that is consistent with the wishes of the testator, so long as the arrangements made are dignified.

A judge has ordered that Mr. Rooney’s body will not be removed until both parties are able to agree upon a final resting place.  Once a mutually satisfactory decision is reached, it seems likely that further litigation with respect to the Estate of Mickey Rooney will follow.  In 2011, Rooney altered his will to disinherit all but one of his previous beneficiaries.

Several years ago, Mr. Rooney extended his legacy beyond a lifelong career in the entertainment industry by speaking out about his experience as a victim of elder abuse.

Rooney’s assets were significantly depleted by the misconduct of his conservator, to the extent that his Estate may now be worth as little as $18,000.00.  Mickey Rooney commenced an action against his step-son and publically encouraged other victims of elder abuse to seek help and report the crimes being committed against them.

Thank you for reading.

Suzana Popovic-Montag

Anderson Cooper: Interesting Views on Inheritances

Posted in Uncategorized

During a recent interview on Howard Stern’s radio show, described in a Wall Street Journal: Market Watch article entitled “Cooper: No Gloria Vanderbilt Money for me”, Anderson Cooper discussed both his views on receiving large inheritances, and the fact that he will not be receiving any inheritance upon the death of his mother- fashion designer, Gloria Vanderbilt.

More specifically, in the interview, Mr. Cooper explained that his mother has told him from a young age that he would not be receiving any trust fund or other inheritance from her upon her death. In response to Mr. Stern’s shock, Mr. Cooper stated “I don’t believe in inheriting money… I think it’s an initiative sucker… I think it’s a curse…”. Mr. Cooper then explained that he considers large inheritances to inhibit good work ethic. When Mr. Stern pointed out that Mr. Cooper’s mother had inherited quite a fortune from the death of her father, Mr. Cooper described her as an anomaly and asserted that she has earned more money in her lifetime than she ever inherited.

When asked, hypothetically speaking, whether Mr. Cooper would leave his children any money, however, Mr. Cooper’s answer was not so black and white.

Mr. Cooper’s opinions on the impact of large inheritances is interesting food for thought. His interview certainly leads one to think about what they would do in Ms. Vanderbilt’s fashionable shoes.

Thank you for reading.

Andrea Buncic

How to Give the Gift of Life

Posted in Ethical Issues, Health / Medical, In the News

Two weeks previously, I outlined the complications raised in determining time of death for the purposes of organ donation. A further complication is determining, with certainty, whether a potential donor has expressed their desire to donate in a manner sufficient to allow for donor family members to accede to, and for donor agencies to accept, an organ donation.

The Trillium Gift of Life Network (TGLN), a not-for-profit agency of the Government of Ontario which promotes and supports organ donation across the province, found that while over 85% of Ontarians support organ donation, only 25% register their consent to donate.

April is Be a Donor Month, and agencies such as the TGLN are ramping up campaigns to inform potential organ donors of this critical step in ensuring that their donations are realized.

Ronnie Gavsie, CEO of the TGLN, has expressed that simply signing a driver’s license is not enough. Those wishing to guarantee that their wish to donate is known need to register at or at a ServiceOntario centre. Simply signing a donor card is no longer sufficient.

Even if the face of a registered donor, families are always required to consent. It is for this very reason that the TGLN advises that in addition to registering, donor’s should get a Power of Attorney and also ensure that family members are made aware of their intentions. Such sentiment was echoed by Pascale Daigneault, President of the Ontario Bar Association.

ServicesOntario advertises the requirements for registration, and notes that donors may one day save up to 8 lives with their donation. Donations also provide for other major life improvements such as allowing those who have lost their vision to see once again.

Campaigns across Ontario are currently actively encouraging those who wish to partake in organ donation to register their intentions. Such positive steps encourage family members to give permission to donate and relieves some of the emotional burden of doing so by ensuring that family members are certain of their loved one’s intentions. The benefits of registration are clear. Some say that registration increases a family’s likelihood of giving permission to donate from 50 to 85%, thus both relieving the emotional strain on families, while also ensuring a larger supply of vital tissues are available for transplant.

Thank you for reading.

Ian Hull

Extreme Burials

Posted in Executors and Trustees, Funerals, Wills

The Last Will of Napoleon Bonaparte states, “…It is my wish that my ashes may repose on the banks of the Seine, in the midst of the French people, whom I have loved so well”.  It is interesting to note that Napoleon wishes, and not instructs, this type of burial.  In Ontario, there is no legal requirement for the estate trustee to follow the wishes expressed by the testator.  Even if a Will includes burial instructions, these are merely precatory and are not binding on the estate trustee.

As such, the estate trustee has the paramount legal authority to determine the place and manner of burial.  Below, I highlight some interesting, and alternative, burial options an estate trustee may want to consider.

Space Burial – For the price of $1,990 Elysium Space will send cremated remains into space.  The remains will launch into low orbit, and circle the earth for a few months before re-entering the atmosphere.  A mobile app is even included which shows, in real time, the spacecraft location and how the world looks from the deceased’s perspective.  This app professes to be the personal gateway to your loved one, resting in peace while the Milky Way is magnificently rising over the celestial horizon.

Natural Earth Burials – A natural earth burial is the burying of a body in a biodegradable coffin or a shroud in a shallow grave without the use of chemicals.  This enables a more natural decomposition.  The body is marked with a tree, not a tombstone, and the exact location is registered using a global positioning system.  Benefits include the fact that the body decomposes faster, there is no pollution of the soil from a coffin, and less land is used.

Personalized Coffins – In order to ensure that funerals are more personal and special, a company based out of Australia offers to make personal, emotional, and environmentally friendly coffins.  This includes an option to decorate the coffin yourself.  Apparently, this is very popular in Ghana, where customized coffins include a Mercedes Benz, fish, and wrench.

Noah Weisberg

Hull on Estates #373 – Retainer agreements

Posted in Hull on Estates, Hull on Estates, PODCASTS / AUDIO, PODCASTS / TRANSCRIBED, Show Notes

Listen to Hull on Estates #373 – Retainer agreements

Today on Hull on Estates, Noah Weisberg and special guest, Jordan Atin, discuss retainer agreements. If you have any questions, please email us at, or leave a comment on our blog page.

Click here for more information on Noah Weisberg.

Click here for more information on Jordan Atin.