All About Estates

When Cash is not King?

Most people keep their cash in bank accounts. However, to my surprise, some people still don’t, and for estate planning and administration purposes, this can be a real problem. Take the case of Temple v. Peddle, 2019 NLCA 2 in Newfoundland Labrador.

Mrs. Peddle kept cash in a safe deposit box under a joint account with Mrs. Peddle’s son Leo, who was ultimately appointed guardian of her estate. Leo claimed the box contained $50,000 in cash the last time the money was counted (in 2014). Apparently there was no record of access to the safety deposit box after that time, until approximately eight months later, when in early 2015, Wendell — Mrs. Peddle’s other son — took his mother to the bank where the safety deposit box was located. Wendell testified that his mother took the cash from the safety deposit box, adding that there was only $30,000 in it, which they then put in a new safety deposit box (under joint account) at a different bank. This all happened the day before Mrs. Peddle went into a nursing home, suffering from dementia. Then sometime later in 2015, Wendell claimed that he withdrew the money from the new safe deposit and took it home for safekeeping.  Wendell returned $30,000 cash to his brother Leo following Leo’s appointment as guardian. Wendell said this represented the amount of money he took control of when his mother withdrew the money from her safety deposit box in early 2015 to put in the second safe deposit box..

Leo, as guardian of his mother’s estate, commenced an application for the return of the missing $20,000. Weighing all the evidence put before it, the Court found that Wendell had converted $20,000 to his own use and ordered that it be paid to Leo as Myrtle’s guardian of the estate. In the absence of adequate documentation to support or catalog what was in the box at different times during 2014 and 2015, the case hinged on the credibility of the parties and the Court found Leo to be more credible than Wendell, after painstakingly going thru all the evidence submitted to substitute for the lack of direct and clear documentation.

Notwithstanding how one may feel about financial institutions in general, they are well regulated and with the right kind of planning, cash deposits are 100% government insured. There is no reason to keep large sums of money in a safety deposit box (or in a safe at home, or in a mattress for that matter!).

Happy Reading

About Steven Frye
Baker Tilly WM LLP is a leading, independent audit, tax, and business advisory firm based in Vancouver and Toronto, serving clients across Canada. Drawing on well-trained teams across a variety of disciplines, we ensure the alignment of our professional’s skills and experience with client requirements, resulting in exceptional service and business outcomes.

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