In a recent Ontario decision, the court determined that a son who had murdered his parents could not benefit from their estates, despite provisions made for him in the parents’ wills.
Man Pleads Guilty to Murdering His Parents
In December 2018, a couple’s adopted son pleaded guilty to murdering both his parents. He was sentenced to two life sentences without the possibility for parole for 20 years.
At the time of the father’s death, he had no other known relatives. At the time of her death, the mother’s closest relatives were her three brothers.
Each parent had a will, in which they had provided that the residue of their estates would be gifted to each other. The will further provided that, where the other had predeceased, the residue would be put in a trust during their son’s lifetime. The will stipulated that following the son’s death, the trust would be distributed to his children. In the case where the son died without children, the trust would be divided between the mother’s three brothers.
At the time of the murders, the son was 25 years old and had no children.
Following the parents’ deaths, a bank was appointed trustee for their estates.
The bank then brought a motion for directions as to the proper interpretation of the parents’ wills.
The Office of the Children’s Lawyer was served with the bank’s application on behalf of the son’s unborn children as potential beneficiaries of the parents’ estates.
The father’s estate was valued at $1,237,582 and the mother’s at $869,177.
Court Orders Estates to Go to Mother’s Brothers
At the outset, the court observed:
“The law is clear that for public policy reasons, a person found criminally responsible for murder cannot be allowed to benefit from his crime. Nor can he benefit from the estate of the persons he murdered.”
However, because of the provisions made in the parents’ wills, the issue remained as to whether the parents’ estates should remain invested until the son died in order to ascertain if he had any children surviving before proceeding with a distribution to alternate beneficiaries.
The court found that the parents’ subjective intentions had been clear that if the other spouse, their son or their son’s children could not receive their estates, the estate would go to the mother’s three brothers. However, the court noted that there was also an intention to have their unborn grandchildren benefit from their estates.
After reviewing and applying relevant legal principles, the court concluded:
“[The son] is disentitled and that his disentitlement crystalizes at a time where he has no living [children]. The criminal forfeiture rule plays a role in guiding the Court to accelerate the bequeath to [the son] and also to his unborn children. If the true intent of the structure of these wills is to be respected, the estates should be kept in the family. The intent of the testators was to ensure that upon the triggering events, the estates should pass to the next level of lineal descendant. The triggering event in question is that [the son] is disentitled and has no [children] surviving. As such, the next level of lineal descendants are [the mother]’s three brothers, subject to the annuities.”
In the result, the court therefore ordered that the mother’s three brothers would be entitled to benefit from the estate, with neither the son nor his unborn children to be provided for.
At Bader Law, we have considerable experience providing insight and legal guidance on the estate planning process, and working with Estate Trustees and beneficiaries throughout the entire probate process. We work with clients throughout Mississauga and the Greater Toronto Area on simple and highly complex estate planning and probate matters.
The Mississauga will and estate lawyers at Bader Law represent individuals, families and business owners with comprehensive estate planning needs in Mississauga and throughout the Greater Toronto Area. We advise clients on best practices in both simple and complex estate matters to ensure they have a plan in place to protect their interests and minimize their estate tax obligations. We also represent estate trustees and beneficiaries in various probate matters. Contact us online or at (289) 652-9092 to learn how we can help.