Estates Law News
By: John Kranjc

Like Dermot Nolan, I mourn the end of the era where you could visit the local video store, ask for some interesting suggestions and stumble on a gem or two for the weekend.  I miss Select Video formerly on the corner of Queen and King.  One of the gems that I remember even now is a quirky Dutch movie called Antonia’s Line.  It is a story about a husky Dutch woman farmer, who longs to get pregnant and have a family.  Without romantic success, she continues to take in stray animals as well as stray humans who pass through her life in need of help.  At her end, her “line” does not end, but continues with a huge cast of characters whose lives she has positively affected.

I was reminded of the movie recently when reading a recent case on dependent support called DeLeon v DeRanney.  DeLeon v. Estate of Raymon DeRanney, 2020 ONSC 19 (CanLII), <https://canlii.ca/t/j56cm>.

Many of you know that it was my opinion until recently, that the courts will be much stricter when determining who is a dependant in estate and dependant relief files, than in matrimonial files.  This case has made me reconsider.

Raymon DeRanney was, according to the court, a very nice man.  He had been married and had one biological daughter.  She would inherit everything on intestacy.  

At one time he had a romantic relationship with a woman called Fritzie DeLeon (apparently not her stage name).  They separated.  Years later Fritzie became pregnant during another relationship with someone else.  A daughter Caseylynn was born.  That relationship did not last and when she had no one to turn to, she turned to Raymon.  He took them in.  They lived together more or less.  As the court described the evidence they lived as “brother and sister” with Raymon assisting Fritzie in providing a life for Caseylynn.  Fritzie had other relationships.  Caseylynn lived with Raymon more or less, for 15 of her years.  She and Fritzie were living elsewhere when Raymon died.  Caseylynn was 17. 

Raymon died of a heart attack, without a will, while on vacation in the Caribbean.  His biological daughter survived him.  His estate was worth about $1.5 million.  Although Caseylynn was not living with Raymon at his death, she made a claim for support.
Mdm. Justice Dietrich of the Ontario Court found:

“Part V of the SLRA makes provision for the dependants of a deceased person. Section 58 of the SLRA provides, in part, as follows:

58(1) Where a deceased whether testate or intestate, has not made adequate provision for the proper support of his dependants or any of them, the court, on application, may order that such provision as it considers adequate be made out of the estate of the deceased for the proper support of the dependants or any of them.

[37]  A “dependant” is defined, at s. 57(1) of the SLRA, and includes:
   ...a child of the deceased to whom 
   the deceased was providing support 
   or was under a legal obligation to 
   provide support immediately before 
   his or her death;

and a “child” includes:

   a person whom the deceased has 
   demonstrated a settled intention to   
   treat as a child of his or her family.

[38]  In Hyatt v. Ralph, 2015 ONSC 580 at para. 21, the court, citing Widdis v. Widdis, 2000 SKQB 441 (CanLII), 2000 CarswellSask 594 (Sask. Q.B.) at para. 16, identified a number of indicia of parenthood from the case law as follows:
a)      did the “parents” pool their income into a joint account?
b)     did the “parents” pay the expenses for all children out of this same account?
c)      did the child in question refer to the man as “daddy” or woman as “mommy”?
d)     did the “parents” refer to themselves as “mommy” and “daddy”?
e)      did the “parents” share the task of disciplining the child?
f)      did the child participate in the extended family in the same way as a biological child?
g)     did the child have a relationship with the biological parent?
h)     was there a change of surname?
i)      was there a discussion of adoption?
j)      was the “parent” engaging in decisions about education and attending at parent-teacher meetings?
k)     did the “parent” express to the child, the family and the world, either implicitly or explicitly, that he or she is responsible as a parent to the child?”

Ultimately the court as it does, sifted through a number of factors on one side, and a number of factors on the other.  It found Raymon had a settled intention to treat Caseylynn as his child, and that Caseylynn was a dependant of Raymon.  Although she had always called him “uncle Raymon” one of the key factors for the judge was the idea that it would have been likely that Raymon would have assisted in putting Caseylynn through school and contributed to the cost of her higher education.

The conclusion was that the proper amount of support relief to be awarded was approximately $40,955 which was what the court calculated would be the amount needed to sustain Caseylynn’s post secondary ambitions.
Lest you think this is a Toronto issue, Fritzie did work in Hamilton for a period of time but didn’t like to commute from Toronto.

One takeaway from this is that relationships are all different, and the definition of “dependant” is variable.  You can never be absolutely certain of the court’s views on what constitutes a relationship and who qualifies as a dependant.  
If you can find Antonia’s Line, I recommend the movie.  It will remind you to keep an open mind.

John Kranjc is an experienced litigator with over 35 years of  experience. His practice is concentrated in the areas of Trusts and Estates and Commercial disputes, including employment issues.
He can be reached at: 
Regency Law Group
25 Main Street West, Suite 2010
Hamilton, ON 
L8P 1H1 
Phone: 905-383-0500
Email: [email protected]