All About Estates

Summary Judgment and Limitation Periods in the Context of Estate Litigation

Today’s blog was co-written by Ronald Neal.

In Sinclair v Harris, Justice Nakatsuru granted summary judgment on the basis that the claims advanced on behalf of the estate were statute-barred.

The deceased passed away in November 2015.  The Plaintiffs are the estate trustees appointed in the deceased’s will (the “Estate Trustees”).  Five years before her death, the deceased advanced approximately $137,333 to her friends (the “Defendants”) so that the Defendants could purchase a house (the “Beeton property”).  The deceased secured a mortgage against her Toronto home to fund the $137,333 to the Defendants.  The Defendants then purchased the Beeton Property as joint tenants.  The deceased occasionally visited the Defendants at the Beeton Property.

In August 2003, the Defendants sold the Beeton property for $225,000 and moved to Hawaii.  No monies were paid to the deceased from the sale proceeds, but the deceased and the Defendants remained in constant contact over the years.

When the deceased passed away, the Estate Trustees learned about the advanced $137,333 to the Defendants.  In February 2017, the Estate Trustees commenced an action seeking the repayment of what they argued was the deceased’s equitable interest in the Beeton property; the Estate Trustees claimed that such funds were held by the Defendants on a resulting trust for the deceased’s estate.

The Defendants argued, among other things, that the Estate Trustees’ claim was statute-barred.  Both parties sought summary judgement.

Justice Nakatsuru found that there was no genuine issue requiring a trial and that summary judgment was appropriate.

The Defendants argued that even if the Estate Trustees were successful in establishing a resulting trust, their claim was well beyond the limitation period and was thus statute-barred. Specifically, the Defendants relied on the 10-year limitation period pursuant to s 4 of the Real Property Limitations Act (the “RPLA”).  The Estate Trustees submitted that no limitation period was applicable to a claim for resulting trust in equity.

In coming to his decision, Justice Nakatsuru emphasized the Ontario Court of Appeal’s reasons in Waterstone Properties Corp v Caledon (Town).  In that case, the Ontario Court of Appeal clarified that the 10-year limitation period did not just apply to claims for the possession of land, but also to claims of ownership of land advanced by way of a resulting trust.  As a result, Justice Nakatsuru held that the Estate Trustees’ claim was an action to recover land and therefore fell within the application of s 4 of the RPLA.

Given the above, his Honour (somewhat reluctantly) found that the Defendants are entitled to summary judgment on the basis that the Estate Trustees’ claims are statute-barred.  The Defendants were granted their summary judgment and the Estate Trustees’ action was dismissed.

Thanks for reading.

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

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