‘Ralph the Programme Guy’ (part 2)


Written on October 21, 2014 – 6:00 am | by Ken Shulman

Last week, Audrey Miller took the initiative to blog about ‘Ralph the Programme Guy’ and reflected on the lesson learned from his ‘eccentric’ life and sad, lonely death. I hope that the blogosphere will forgive my indulgence in following up on an issue that is only indirectly related to testamentary capacity.

Since my childhood days,  I also had known ‘Ralph’, whose real name was Rayfield Platner. Rayfield was probably a variation on Rafael. His parents were refugees from Europe, creative/artistic individuals who were also ‘eccentric’ and died while ‘Ralph’ was still a young man leaving him alone in the world. ‘Ralph’ suffered from a serious mental disorder from childhood on that profoundly affected his ability to sit still, concentrate and relate socially. He was brilliant and had an encyclopedic knowledge of just about everything as well as a photographic memory. Because of his mental disability he could not pursue a normal education or develop lasting relationships. Yet, ‘Ralph’ maximized his potential in life by finding a vocation (selling programmes) that was compatible with his extreme hyperactivity, short attention span and social awkwardness. As seen from last week’s outpouring of affection, admiration, respect and sense of loss, ‘Ralph’ still managed to touch the hearts and souls of many. For me, ‘Ralph’s’ story is one of a true hero who showed resilience, determination and courage in the face of severe personal adversity. Remarkably, he remained independent, living on his own, hustling programmes at major Sports events, working out daily, scrounging meals at Jewish community functions and reading voraciously.

Had anyone been asked to assess ‘Ralph’s’ mental capacity, they would have been hard pressed to find parameters that would fit this one-of-a kind individual – a reminder that mental capacity is both task-specific and situation-specific. While I suspect that ‘Ralph’ may have died intestate (though I do not know), he still left a legacy that profoundly affected all who knew him. Thank you Audrey for remembering ‘Ralph’ in this Estates blog. He is worthy of such recognition.

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    What are the Tax Consequences of Disclaiming or Releasing an Interest in a Trust? Part 1


    Written on October 20, 2014 – 12:19 pm | by Katie Ionson

    The CRA recently began an initiative to consolidate the information provided in its income tax interpretation bulletins and income tax technical newsletters. The new publications are called “folios”. As each folio is released, it is subject to a three-month comment period. In late September, the CRA released “S6-F2-C1-Disposition of an Income Interest in a Trust”, which, among other things, summarizes the tax consequences of a disclaimer, release or surrender.

    A disclaimer, release or surrender can be a helpful tool to alter a trust. For example, a parent who is given a life interest in a trust may wish to disclaim the interest, in hopes that his or her children, as capital beneficiaries, will receive the trust property sooner. At other times, execution of a disclaimer may be an effective way to “cure” a tainted spousal trust. The law in this area is complex, sometimes conflicting and evolving.

    Many factors go into determining the ultimate effect of a disclaimer, release or surrender. The CRA folio is an updated and helpful resource for assessing one of these factors. This blog post and my next on November 5 will summarize some of the tax consequences of disclaiming, releasing or surrendering an interest in a trust.

    It is the CRA’s position that, in order for a person to disclaim an income interest in a trust, it must be the case that:

    1. The disclaimer is executed at the time the taxpayer becomes aware of the interest or at a reasonable time thereafter;
    2. The person has not accepted any funds from the trust in respect of his or her income interest at the time the disclaimer is made;[1] and
    3. The disclaimer is not made in favour of another person.

    A disclaimer is a refusal to accept a gift. The taxpayer is considered to have never received the interest. The disclaimer is therefore not a disposition by the taxpayer and accordingly it is not necessary to include the fair market value of the interest in the taxpayer’s income.

    It is sometimes important that the disclaimed property be considered to have been transferred “as a consequence of death” (e.g. where a disclaimer is used to fix a tainted spousal trust). Subsection 248(8) provides that a disclaimer, release or surrender of property gifted under the Will of the taxpayer or on the intestacy of a taxpayer will be considered to have been made as a consequence of the taxpayer’s death only if the disclaimer is made within 36 months of the taxpayer’s death (unless ministerial consent is obtained for an extension of this period).

    Although not mentioned in the folio, the CRA has in the past indicated that the principles regarding a disclaimer, release or surrender of an income interest in a trust apply equally to a disclaimer, release or surrender of a capital interest in a trust.[2]


    [1] The CRA’s second requirement, that the person has not accepted any funds from the trust, appears to be in conflict with the current state of the common law in Ontario. In the Ontario Court of Appeal decision of R. v. Coulson, 16 OR (2d) 497 (1977), a taxpayer was permitted to make a partial disclaimer of her income interest in a trust, despite already having received income payments from the trust. However, this decision was highly criticized for departing from the traditional rule that a disclaimer is only possible before a gift has been accepted.

    [2] IT-385R2. See also 2006-0196501R3.

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      Ralph, the Programme Guy


      Written on October 17, 2014 – 6:01 am | by Audrey Miller

      When everybody knows your name but very few know you.

      I read an obit that appeared as an announcement in a sports blog from markhebscher who read about it from Scott@randomjaysstuff.

      The announcement read ‘Toronto’s Witness to Sports History is Dead’. Oddly enough I knew Ralph, or should I say our family knew of Ralph, better known as ‘Ralph the Programme Guy’. In fact, in the mid 80’s we lived in the same apartment complex and I would see him doing sit ups in the laundry room.

      Like many others, lots of people saw Ralph selling programs at various sports events and at hundreds of concerts and other events, some where he may not have had a formal invitation. No matter. He was recognizable. In fact Ralph was so well known that the follow up blog post at www.markhebscher.com reported that over 22 thousand people read the article and hundreds provided tributes and reflections on their encounters with Ralph.

      Apparently Ralph had suffered a stroke last Spring and was hospitalized. I don’t know if anyone came to visit him. The blog shared that he turned 67 on October 1; a date that likely went unnoticed by most.

      Ralph was buried on October 15th. The outpouring of tributes and offers to assist in giving him a proper send off, was outstanding. Ralph was referred to as being Toronto’s greatest witness to sports history and he likely didn’t know it. He also didn’t know how much he would be missed and by so many.
      Lesson Learned: Don’t wait until after the person is dead to tell them what they mean to you. Thanks Ralph for this lesson.

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