Tommy Smothers used to say to his brother, "Mom always liked you best." As between brothers, jealousy for the affection of parents is common. But what if Mom likes her church or a charity more than you. This is a problem when parents leave their estates to charities rather than their own children. Two BC Court of Appeal cases have tackled this issue.
In Crerar v. Crerar Estate, the testator left his spouse a life estate on $500,000 of a $1,900,000 estate. One of his sons received only $100,000, with the balance left to charity. Upon the spouse's death, what remained of the $500,000 life estate would be split between the three sons. The testator had, primarily by his own cause, been estranged from two of his three sons. On appeal, the court increased the spouse's life estate to $1,000,000, with a gift over to the three sons upon the spouse's death. The remainder was divided 50% to the charity, and 50% to the three children.
In Flurry v. Fuller, the will left each of three children only $1,000 and the remainder of approximately $1 million went to the deceased's church. The deceased had an extremely close connection to the church, and a generally good relationship with his children. The court noted that each of the children had a general need for the money and no one child had a greater moral claim than another. The court concluded that the will should be varied (assuming it was valid) such that 50% of the estate would go to the church and the balance of the 50% would be distributed equally among the three children.
Both of these cases involved adult children. The Courts appear to be sympathetic to adult children in competition with charities and have increased the share of the children from the parent's estate.
If you find yourself in this situation, contact us for advice.