Mussio Goodman Obtains Another Successful Result in Court

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Mussio Goodman is pleased to announce our success in the British Columbia Supreme Court case of Ciarniello v. James, 2016 BCSC 1699. The case involved a BC wills variation claim by the Plaintiff, who was the second wife of a Vancouver dentist and businessman. 

The Plaintiff sued her husband’s estate, claiming that he did not adequately provide for her in his will. The deceased had five children, two with the Plaintiff and three from a previous marriage. The will split the estate equally between his five children but left out the Plaintiff.

In this case, Wesley Mussio and Anthony Eden of Mussio Goodman represented the Defendants, the three children from the first family.

British Columbia Wills and Estate law is very unique when compared to other jurisdictions, as it features legislation which allows adult children or spouses to apply to the Court to vary the will of a deceased person. 

A Court will overturn a will of a deceased person and vary it with terms it deems to be “just, adequate, or equitable”, if a variety of criteria are met. However, the criteria which warrants variation of a will is routinely a point of contention between the parties, especially when there are millions of dollars at stake.  

The BC wills variation regime often pits family members against each other in lengthy and contested litigation. A particularly common family dynamic in BC wills variation claims involve blended families. Where the deceased has multiple children with different spouses, there is typically an increased possibility for animosity between family members. This age-old problem can lead to some fairly complex litigation. The lawyers at Mussio Goodman are well versed in the legal and practical aspects of such situations and the impact on Wills and Estate law in British Columbia.

The first family disagreed that the deceased’s will ought to be varied in the Plaintiff’s favour, mainly because their father had transferred significant assets to the Plaintiff before his death. Furthermore, they argued that their father relied on complicated tax planning reasons for leaving the Plaintiff out of his will.  

Mr. Justice Sigurdson heard arguments from all the parties over four days of trial. The evidence revealed that the estate was over $11M in total, and that the Plaintiff had been transferred significant assets prior to the death of the Deceased. In spite of this, the Plaintiff argued that she should have received half of the marital assets on the death of the Deceased, as would have been required on a divorce. Furthermore, the Plaintiff argued that she had not been maintained by the deceased to continue a standard of living to which she had grown accustomed.

On the other hand, we argued on behalf of our clients that the court should give due consideration to the considerable assets already transferred to the Plaintiff, and the taxes paid by the estate for which the Plaintiff was not responsible.

Of importance, it was revealed through the course of litigation that a company transferred to the Plaintiff before the death of the deceased owed debts of close to $1.5M dollars to the deceased’s estate. This key evidence was uncovered through the discovery process of the litigation by the efforts of the Mussio Goodman team. 

After reviewing all the evidence, Mr. Justice Sigurdson ordered that the will be varied so that the Plaintiff is entitled to 25% of the Estate. In making his decision, Mr. Justice Sigurdson placed a great deal of weight on the fact that without a variation of the will, the Plaintiff would be unable to re-pay the debt to the Estate. So while the Plaintiff will receive an increased share from the estate, the practical consequence is that the she must use her increased share to satisfy the debt owing to the estate. 

This case demonstrates how complicated BC Wills and Estate litigation can be. There are often significant investigations in the course of litigation as well as complicated practical issues to take into account, such as tax planning consequences. Litigation can be a very risky endeavour and there are very rarely “slam dunk” cases. At Mussio Goodman, we provide our BC Wills and Estate litigation clients with the experience, knowledge, and expertise to deal with any situation that may arise throughout the course of a lawsuit.

Mussio Goodman Successful at Trial in Overturning Will For Disinherited Clients

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We are pleased to announce that reasons for judgement were just released in our case Sharma v. Sharma Estate, 2016 BCSC 1397. The case centered on the Estate our clients’ mother, and her Will that disinherited three children in favour of one son.

In the Will, the defendant stood to inherit the entire Estate. The Estate was valued at upwards of $2 million and consisted of real estate in Canada as well as Fiji and other sizeable investments.

At trial, Wes Mussio, assisted by associate Anthony Eden, argued that the Will of the deceased did not make a morally adequate provision for our disinherited clients (Rani and Ranjan). We argued that our clients had not been given any significant assets from their mother during their lifetime, while the defendant brother (Victor) was in receipt of financial support from his mother in the form of rent-free accommodation, a monthly stipend, and payment of various expenses for the duration of his entire adult life when he was not serving time in prison for attempted murder and other serious criminal activities.

Madam Justice Griffin agreed and accordingly varied the Will ordering 34% of the residue of the Estate to the Deceased’s daughter and 33% to each son.

[430] Judging Victor by contemporary standards would mean that he should not necessarily be disinherited simply because of his criminal activity, as he should be given a chance at rehabilitation. Similarly, the fact that there was some distance between Rani, Ranjan and the Testatrix later in her life can be understood by the circumstances which led to that distance, for which Rani and Ranjan ought not to be unduly criticized.

 [431] Viewed objectively in light of current societal norms, when I compare and contrast the circumstances of Rani, Ranjan and Victor, I conclude that each sibling is morally deserving of a share of the Testatrix’s estate and that a judicious parent would share her estate amongst them.

This case underscores the legal and moral constraints that can affect the binding nature of one’s Last Will and Testament. If you have been disinherited and suspect that the decision was made by way of undue influence, mental incapacity, or believe there are moral reasons why you should still be entitled to a portion of an estate, contact us to review your rights.

 

Take Five Magazine Reports on Wes Mussio’s Court of Appeal Victory

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As reported in the August issue of Take Five by OnPoint Legal Research, the BC Court of Appeal has rejected ICBC’s attempt to shut down ICBCadvice.com, a free informational website for those dealing with ICBC claims, owned by Wes Mussio’s wife. This was ICBC’s second attempt to remove the website – the first attempt was rejected by the BC Supreme Court in 2012. ICBC claimed that the website unlawfully infringed on the company’s copyright license of the term “ICBC” and, therefore, violated the Trade-Marks Act. However, the Court of Appeal sided with Wes Mussio, counsel for the Respondant, confirming that ICBCAdvice.com was not in violation of the Act.

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Vancouver Sun Interviews Eric Goodman of Mussio Goodman on ICBC’s Rate Increase

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As reported on the front page of The Vancouver Sun, ICBC has applied to increase rates by 5.5 per cent to cover the rising cost of insurance, so says ICBC spokesperson Adam Grossman. “Here in B.C., in 2013, our injury claims in one year were $1.9 billion. That’s up by more than $500 million from just five years ago,” stated Grossman.

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Wes Mussio Featured in Lawyers Weekly

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As previously discussed, injured claimants must take reasonable steps to restore themselves to their pre-accident condition, which includes following the advice of their doctors.

In the trial of Warner v. Cousins, the judge found that the Plaintiff failed to mitigate her damages and reduced the award as a result.

The decision was appealed to the Court of Appeal, the result of which was profiled along with our lawyer Wes Mussio’s views in the publication Lawyers Weekly.

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