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Saturday, February 20, 2016

Pension cheques for dead professor must be repaid, court rules

The things that people will do for money never ceases to amaze me. Let me tell you about the case of George Roseme. He was a retired professor of Carleton University. He was last seen in 2007. At that time, he was 77 years old and suffering from Alzheimer's disease. A 6-day search did not turn up a body so Mr. Roseme was considered missing. A court appointed Lynne Threlfall as the tutor for Mr. Roseme. A tutor is someone who would handle the financial affairs of the missing person .

Ms. Threlfall was also the only beneficiary of Mr. Roseme's estate, and the liquidator (executor) appointed under his will, so she was obviously someone that he knew well and trusted.

Around that time, Mr. Roseme began receiving a retirement pension from Carleton University in the amount exceeding $7,000 per month. Ms. Threlfall didn't bother notifying them that Mr. Roseme was missing, and continued receiving the pension. The University found out about Mr. Roseme being missing in 2009 when they read a story about him in the paper. They told Ms. Threlfall that they were going to discontinue the pension but she fought it in court. She won on the point that according to the Quebec Civil Code (Mr. Roseme was a resident of Quebec),  a person could not be declared dead for 7 years unless there was proof of death. So, the pension kept coming.

Finally, 55 days before the 7 years would have expired, Mr. Roseme's remains were found on a neighbour's property. His death was established to have occurred in 2007. Ms. Threlfall didn't notify the university, but they found out anyway.

The university demanded the repayment of the pension benefits, now amounting to about $500,000, on the basis that they had only kept paying them on the assumption that Mr. Roseme was still alive. Again, Ms. Threlfall fought them in court, on the basis that she should not have to repay anything that was paid before April 2014 when the body was found. Obviously her argument had nothing to do with what was due to Mr. Roseme, but only about what she was going to be able to keep.

This time the court didn't agree with her. The court said the amount had to be repaid because it was proved that Mr. Roseme died before the 7 years was up.

As the facts came out, it was revealed that Ms. Threlfall had used $106,000 of the money for her own use. This was an important point under Quebec law, because as soon as Mr. Roseme's death was established, her status as tutor ended, and her status as liquidator and beneficiary began. Section 801 of the Quebec Civil Code says that if a beneficiary mingles the estate money with their personal money, he or she is liable for the debts of the estate.

Ms. Roseme, despite her best attempts to ride the gravy train, now has to repay Carleton University the sum of $497,332.60 plus interest.

To read the case in its entirety, click here.


  1. Interesting that...
    Trustees must not co mingle or misuse estate funds or assets for their own purposes.
    It is trite law that trustees are fiduciaries and must not personally use, profit from, or co-mingle estate funds with their own.[..]

    Yet, I could not find anything online that refers to a POA who is also a beneficiary that refers to the above.
    I am dealing with a similar situation. TBC.

    1. This case turned on the operation of s. 801 of the Quebec civil code. That is much different than the common law followed in the rest of Canada.


  2. As tutor, is Ms. Threlfall due compensation for acting in that capacity?

    It is not clear as to whether Ms. Threlfall used the $106K while acting as tutor, or only after Mr. Roseme's death was established.

    If she used the money while tutor to Mr. Rosem's financial matters, as I expect that is a position similar to a POA acting for an incapacitated person, there would be no expectation to use any of the money for herself personally so I assume she could also be charged with theft.


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