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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Court challenge over elderly man's will may be a sign of things to come

There is a very sad, upsetting case being heard in the Ontario court. It is about the will of Christos Vloyiannitis, who died in 2013 at the age of 78. Before Mr. Vloyiannitis died, he changed his will to make his caregivers, a married couple named Terry and Pam Cross, his major beneficiaries. He also made them his powers of attorney for both personal care and financial matters.

The day before Mr. Vloyiannitis died, he was admitted to hospital in very bad shape, with issues including malnutrition and untreated sores.

Mr. Vloyiannitis's sister is contesting the will. She alleges that the caregivers took advantage of an old, sick man who was grieving the death of his wife and was dependent on pain meds including morphine. She says they isolated him from family and were spending about $13,000 a month of his money.

Click here to read a story from the National Post that gives more details about the case.

The angle taken in the story is that this type of will challenge is going to become more common in the near future as our population ages. I agree. Not everyone has family members who are willing and able to provide the care that is needed. More and more of us will be dependent on paid caregivers. This means that more of us will be vulnerable to the dishonest ones among them.

Will challenges are based on the idea that the testator was unduly influenced by a greedy or unscrupulous person or did not have the mental capacity to understand what was happening. These cases are already pretty common. In fact, I have one in front of the Newfoundland courts right now. Here's how it works: when most wills are admitted to the probate court, they go through on a simplified, informal process. If there is a reason to suspect that there is something wrong with the will (known as "suspicious circumstances), a family member or other person can request that the court take a closer look. If the court agrees that there are suspicious circumstances, it would then go through a process whereby the circumstances of the will would be examined in detail.

This type of litigation is lengthy (think years, not months), expensive and really unpleasant. There are accusations flying around and every possible bit of dirt is brought up. This is because the court digs deep to see what happened leading up to the signing of the will.

All of us who have seniors in our lives should do our best to keep an eye on them. Sometimes older people feel very lonely and are easily convinced by opportunistic people that nobody in their family cares about them. Isolation is dangerous.

3 comments:

  1. Laws in Ontario making "executors" OWNERSHIP ON TITLE are making Ontario a haven for Criminals! This is only the tip of the iceberg. People don't challenge the laws. One lawsuit against one person is just not good enough. I am suing the Government of Ontario to get the laws in Ontario democratic to protect victims, protect registered ownership on property & protect the survivorship on matrimonial homes. Mom & I lost everything as a direct result of our laws in Ontario are made for the benefit of criminals & do nothing to protect the rights of Canadians. I tried to get media help and they all refused. Silence and secret filing should be banned as it is in Alberta & Manitoba. If you have a will, you had better add a clause that your executor is only allowed to act as "trustee" and in no way are you giving permission for any executor to take ownership title of your home, properties, investments and bank accounts - otherwise they will do exactly what my brother did - 2009 he took everything including the home, money & properties that belonged to my mother who was alive until feb of this year. Property theft is still not even a criminal offence either.

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  2. Thanks to you for bringing this story to our attention, and to that dynamo reporter Christie Blatchford of the National Post. Sad indeed.
    Of note..The legal test, Birnboim said, is “is there some evidence of suspicious circumstances? This case is replete with suspicious circumstances … This case should be a real concern to the court.” Elliot Birnboim, lawyer for Vloyiannitis’s sister.
    What concerns me, is why the sister did not try harder to see her brother. Of course there is so much more to this story that has to come out.
    Assuming $13,000 was spent a month for his care, one would expect a great deal of attention.
    On anther note..
    There are many cases involving rogue 'executors', and 'beneficiaries'. Many of these fall through the cracks, as many just give up due to the cost, time, stress, health etc. Justice Delayed due to lawyers and the system is Justice Denied.

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  3. @Trudi Trahan-upchan-6:47 PM
    I don't understand how your brother could have done all of these things well before your mother died? How did you respond back then? Is your father's will so ironclad that it leaves your mother out in the cold. Does she not have a will? There are too many unknowns here in my opinion.

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