All About Estates

Dr. Ken Shulman

Total 19 Posts

Dr. Shulman graduated from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto in 1973 and did postgraduate training in Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. He then went on to do specialty training in Geriatric Psychiatry in London, England. Since 1978, he has been based at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, University of Toronto. He is the inaugural recipient of the Richard Lewar Chair in Geriatric Psychiatry at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, University of Toronto. Currently, he is the Chief of the Brain Sciences Program at Sunnybrook. Dr. Shulman has had a longstanding interest in the issue of testamentary capacity and vulnerability to undue influence and has been qualified as an expert witness in Estate matters in Ontario and Alberta. Together with colleagues he has published several papers in the area of testamentary capacity in international journals and is a frequent presenter at legal continuing education conferences on Estates and Trusts.


Videographers Beware

Occasionally, those hoping to demonstrate the capacity of a testator will film a video of the testator purporting to show that they were cognitively intact or that the will was a reflection of their independent and capable wishes. Unfortunately, the naïve interviewer makes the mistake of confusing the preservation of social graces…

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The 1870 Test for Testamentary Capacity: time for an update

The leading case on testamentary capacity for almost 150 years has been that of Banks v Goodfellow – a judgment written on appeal by Chief Justice Cockburn of the English High Court in 1870.  The four broad criteria that emerged from his judgment have formed the basis of virtually every…

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My First Experience with Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID)

After approval of the legislation, it did not take long for one of my patients (identity disguised) to request access to MAID.  I knew that this was a possibility because of previous discussions regarding the eventual outcome of her debilitating and progressive medical condition.  However, it had been couched in…

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What if I can’t spell ‘WORLD’ backwards?

Clinicians and lawyers are regularly exposed to a score on the Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE) also known as the ‘Folstein test’ after the developer of the most widely used cognitive screening tool in the world. Yet it is one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted tests in Medicine, not to…

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Carter v Canada: The prudent position of the Federal Government on mental illness

The polarized perspectives on Physician Assisted Dying (PAD) mean that no matter where the Federal Government landed on the specific details of the implementation of the Carter v Canada decision, there would be a guaranteed outcry from one or both of the poles – those representing autonomy under the Charter…

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Capacity to execute a Will or POA: “Who and why” may be more important than “what”

I write as a clinician directed by case law or statutory law when assessing the capacity of a testator or an individual executing Powers of Attorney. The criteria set out in case law (Banks v Goodfellow) for testamentary capacity have traditionally been weighted toward the notion of “what” the testator…

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Looking back, looking forward

At year end, we typically engage in a retrospective examination, looking back on events and trying to make sense of them.  Simultaneously, there is a human instinct to make predictions as well as resolutions, both of which are notoriously unreliable.  The notion of predicting the future is one that is…

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How should we define “Geriatric”? certainly not age 65!

A recent spate of media articles has emphasized the rapid growth of an elderly or “geriatric” cohort who are regularly referred to as ‘65 and over’.  This has been labelled the “Silver Tsunami”, an unfortunate term that does not apply to most older women in North America.  In my case,…

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Testamentary Capacity and Lewy Body Dementia

Today’s blog was written by guest blogger Dr. Richard Shulman. Dr. Shulman is a Geriatric  Psychiatrist, and is the Service Medical Director for Seniors Mental Health Services at Trillium Health Partners (Mississauga Hospital, Credit Valley Hospital and Queensway Health Centre). He is available for independent medical-legal capacity assessments. He is an…

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Suicide notes and holograph Wills

The relationship between suicide and mental disorder has been well explored.  The recent death of Robin Williams has brought this issue into the public eye. Most studies (especially in later life) find that the majority of suicides are associated with clinically significant psychiatric illness, particularly mood disorders such as Depression. …

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