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Estates & Wills & Trusts

Criminal charges complicate estate law process

The estate of a deceased person who dies intestate and is survived by a spouse only and no children, must go to the spouse under Ontario’s intestacy laws set out in the Succession Law Reform Act – but for an Ontario lawyer accused of killing his husband, the process isn’t so straightforward, says Toronto estate lawyer Mary Wahbi.

“Our public policy rule provides that no one can benefit from their own wrongdoing,” says Wahbi, partner with Fogler Rubinoff LLP.

As beneficiary of the insurance policy, Demitry Papasotiriou stands to collect about $2 million if the criminal charges related to the death of his husband, Allan Lanteigne, are dismissed, the Toronto Star reports.  Read Toronto Star

If, on the other hand, he is found criminally responsible for his husband’s death, our public policy rule would prevent him from benefiting from his wrongdoing and he would be disqualified from receiving the insurance, says Wahbi.

“Interestingly, when a beneficiary named on a policy of insurance predeceases the insured, the proceeds are payable to the estate of the insured,” she says. “If the same results ensue when a named beneficiary is disqualified and the proceeds are payable to Lanteigne’s estate, Papasotiriou as the surviving spouse could potentially be entitled to the insurance proceeds indirectly as the sole recipient of Lanteinge’s estate in accordance with our intestacy laws. It is likely for this reason that Lanteigne’s mother and sister applied to intervene in Papsotiriou’s civil suit, to ensure that he is also disqualified from inheriting on intestacy.”

Another interesting twist in such cases is the forfeiture provisions under the Civil Remedies Act, 2001, says Wahbi.  Read Civil Remedies Act

“Under that Act, monies acquired directly or indirectly as a result of unlawful activity can be forfeited to the Crown. Furthermore, s. 17(1) of the act allows for forfeiture event if the person is not criminally responsible for the offence by reason of mental disorder.”

According to Wahbi, in last year’s Dhingra case in which a husband killed his wife but was found not criminally responsible for second-degree murder because he suffered from a schizoaffective disorder, the Court of Appeal ruled that the husband was not disqualified from receiving the insurance on his wife’s death because he was not morally responsible for her death and therefore the public policy rule did not apply.  Read Dhingra v. Dhingra

However, the court stayed its order for payment to the husband for 30 days to allow the Attorney General to consider whether he wanted to apply to have the monies forfeited under the Civil Remedies Act. In that case, the Attorney General is proceeding with the forfeiture application.

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