All About Estates

Summary Judgment Dismissed: Notes Support Suspicion of Undue Influence

In Quinlan v. Caron, the court granted summary judgment on the issue of testamentary capacity while dismissing summary judgment on the issue of undue influence.  Referencing the capacity assessor’s notes, the court found that the suspicion of undue influence was a genuine issue for trial.

The testator, Madeleine, changed her Will four times between 1996 to 2007.  Madeleine alternated between her daughter (Lorraine) and her son (John) sharing her estate equally and John as the sole beneficiary.  In her last Will, Madeleine left her estate solely to John.  Lorraine challenged the last Will on the grounds that Madeleine lacked testamentary capacity to make her final Will and was unduly influenced by John to leave her estate to him alone.

John sought a motion for summary judgment.  Madeleine underwent five capacity assessments from 2003 to 2007.  There were extensive notes in respect to these assessments that would play a key role in the court’s decision.  The court found that Madeleine had the requisite capacity and granted summary judgment on the issue of testamentary capacity.

Turning towards the issue of undue influence, the court looked closely at the evidence of the drafting solicitor and the doctor who conducted several of Madeleine’s capacity assessments.  When asked, Madeleine denied she was unduly influenced by John.  She stated her reasons for excluding Lorraine were because she believed Lorraine had wrongfully taken money from her and mistreated her.  The notes indicated that John may have been the source of that information and if the accusations were untrue, then Madeleine may have been unduly influenced by John.  The notes also refer to a long meeting John had with his mother prior to one of the assessments in which he portrayed Lorraine in a negative light. 

Based on the evidence tendered, the court acknowledged that there was a real concern that John may have unduly influenced Madeleine and there was an issue for trial.  The court noted that by undergoing numerous capacity assessments, Madeleine had hoped to avoid litigation but further investigation was warranted. 

Thanks for reading,

Diane Vieira

About Diane Vieira
Diane has practiced in the area of estate, trust and capacity litigation since she was called to the Ontario Bar in 2006. Diane obtained her law degree from Queen’s University after completing an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Toronto. She also recently received the Certificate in Elder Law from Osgoode Hall Law School. She is a member of the Trusts & Estates Section of the Ontario Bar Association, the Advocates’ Society, and the Toronto Lawyers Association. Diane has chaired various continuing legal education programs regarding estate, trust and capacity matters. She can be reached at dvieira@devrieslitigation.com