The background to the unopposed motion was lurid: a prominent lawyer cut down before her time and a last-minute Las Vegas marriage to a former Russian child star. In Estate of Tanya Claudia Davies, 2022 ONSC 2009, the court stayed an application for a certificate of appointment of estate trustee due to the court’s general supervisory role over officers of the court and internet rumours.
Tanya Davies was a prominent Ottawa family law lawyer. She tragically died of COVID-19 in Las Vegas. Her parents applied to be named as her estate trustees without a will, stating in the affidavits that their daughter had no will (although there was no evidence for a search for a will). As there was an intestacy, they stated that they were the sole intestate beneficiaries as their daughter was unmarried and had no children.
Regional Senior Justice MacLeod raised two issues. First, the affidavits did not discuss her law firm which is currently in trusteeship due her untimely passing. As the court has a general supervisory role over winding-up the affairs of lawyers (who are officers of court), MacLeod RSJ required more information about the status of the deceased’s practice and assets or liabilities which would impact the estate.
Second, MacLeod RSJ had been personally advised by the deceased (when she appeared in court as counsel before him) that she was going to Las Vegas to be married. Rumours were floating on the internet that she had been married to Prokhor Chaliapin (a former Russian child star, singer and actor), whose Wikipedia article had been edited to reflect this fact. Of course, MacLeod RSJ noted, “rumours and internet postings do not establish facts” – but in the within context it did call out for an explanation and, potentially, notice to the supposed spouse.
As such, the court stayed the application for the appointment of an estate trustee without a will pending notice to anyone who might reasonably be entitled to notice. The applicants were required to conduct searches for a will and give notice to the Law Society and LawPRO (due to the trusteeship issue). The applicants had also sought to waive the requirement for a security bond, this matter was adjourned to an oral hearing.
This case is one more demonstration that the court will independently scrutinize the material that is provided to it. Just because a motion may be submitted in writing on an unopposed basis is no guarantee that it will be granted. Especially for matters that are unopposed, lawyers must ensure that all and any relevant information is before the court.