On October 3, 2013, Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed Justice Marc Nadon to the Supreme Court of Canada. Justice Nadon, 64, was most recently a partly-retired Federal Court of Appeal judge. He replaces Justice Morris Fish, who was a SCC Justice from 2003 up until his retirement earlier this year.
While most estate cases in Canada are dealt with on the provincial, supreme, and appellate levels, there have been some very important cases dealing with estate matters that have been decided at the SCC level over the years. For example, the landmark case of Tataryn v. Tataryn Estate laid the foundation for our courts’ subsequent interpretation of the British Columbia Wills Variation Act.
Other examples of important SCC cases for estate lawyers are the companion decisions of Pecore v. Pecore and Madsen Estate v. Saylor. These cases confirmed that a presumption of a resulting trust arises from gratuitous transfers in certain relationships. In other words if, for example, a parent transfers property to an adult child for no payment, there is a legal presumption that the parent did not mean to benefit the child and that the child holds the property in trust for the parent’s estate. Of course, the presumption can be rebutted.
The SCC is the final court of appeals in the Canadian justice system, and an appointment of a new Justice is of great import for our justice system. Given the influence of some past SCC decisions on the estates practice area, an appointment of a new SCC Justice could be of particular interest to lawyers and other professionals interested in estate issues. Since two more SCC Justices are scheduled for retirement in the next several years, it will be interesting to see how the changing body of this court may affect estate-related legal issues over the coming years.