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WILLS - Construction and interpretation - Testator’s intention to be given effect

Friday, May 17, 2019 @ 8:35 AM  

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Appeal by the Estate from a decision of a chambers judge concluding that the testator intended “home” to have a broad meaning such that it included not only the testator’s residence, garage and the land on which these structures were located, but also personal property owned by the testator and located on the land that contributed to the testator’s enjoyment of his home. The testator had two daughters and had a close relationship with them. In his will, the testator gave his home to his two daughters and the residue of his estate to his brother. A dispute arose between the testator’s daughters and his brother as to who inherited the contents of the home, four motorcycles, a truck and a motorcycle trailer parked in the garage, scrap metal stored elsewhere and bank accounts. The testator informed his friends that his daughters would inherit his residence and all his personal property, excluding his interest in Hicklin Motors that he gave to his brother. The chambers judge found that the testator’s daughters inherited the testator’s home and garage, the land to which they were attached, and the personal property located in the home and the garage, including the four motorcycles, motorcycle trailer and truck. He held that the testator’s brother inherited the testator’s interest in Hicklin Motors, the scrap metal stored at Hicklin Motors and elsewhere, the tax-free savings account, any cash not found in the house or the garage, and any other estate assets not expressly given to the testator’s daughters.

HELD: Appeal dismissed. The chambers judge committed no reversible errors. The existence of two plausible meanings of “home” required him to adopt the meaning that best promoted the testator’s intention. There was ample evidence to support the Court’s conclusion that the testator intended “home” to be interpreted broadly. This interpretation was the best match for the testator’s objective of financially assisting his daughters after his death. There was no reason to conclude that the testator would choose to advance the interests of his brother over those of his daughters. The extrinsic evidence supported the finding that the testator had his daughters’ welfare uppermost in his mind when he signed his will. The extrinsic evidence disclosed that the testator and his brother had a business, as opposed to a close, personal relationship.

Hicklin Estate v. Hicklin, [2019] A.J. No. 440, Alberta Court of Appeal, T.W. Wakeling, D. Pentelechuk and K.P. Feehan JJ.A., April 12, 2019. Digest No. TLD-May132019010