Early summer storms

Early summer storms

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Alberta Court interprets a farmer's "poorly-drafted" will

In this case, B owned and operated a large farm that included 33 quarter sections of land and about 600 cattle.  He had a will and died.  And although he remained married to his wife, D, at his death, he had been living with G for more than 20 years.  The issue in the case was whether a specific bequest of $700,000 in favour of G should be paid only if the specific farm lands in which she was given a life interest were sold, and then only from the proceeds of the sale of those lands.  The alternative was that the bequest was conditional on the sale of other lands that formed part of the residue of the estate. 

In a certain paragraph of his will, B specifically bequested to pay and transfer the amount of $700,000 to G "immediately if the farm lands are sold or at the time of sale if the farm land sells at a later date."  The term "farm lands" is not defined, giving rise to the issues in this case. 

Based on a reading of the entire will as a whole, and in light of the circumstances of the making of the will, the Court ruled that G's interpretation was to be preferred.  An order was made requiring that the will be interpreted as thought it read that the $700,000 was payable immediately when the residue lands were sold or at the time of sale if the residue lands are sold at a later date.  In other words, the lands in which G held a life interest did not have to be sold for G to receive the $700,000 - G did not have to abandon her life interest in order to get the bequest payment.

Read the decision at: Bruce Estate (Re).