Estate Planning

With the aging Canadian population, incapacity and estate planning is a growth area of legal practice.  This course is intended as a study and application of how to craft a basic incapacity and estate plan.   It will cover, briefly, commonly used incapacity and succession planning tools such as powers of attorney, Wills, trusts, corporations, joint ownership with right of survivorship, gifts to family, domestic contracts and shareholder agreements, life insurance, and tax deferred retirement plans.  We will examine possible strategies, some applicable legal considerations, and potential Canadian income tax impact to a client’s goals for their own situation and plan.    

By registering for this course, students acknowledge that short portions of their submitted assignments (on a no name basis) may be subsequently used in class, for review and education purposes, in compliance with the Fair Dealing Guidelines for York Faculty and Staff.

Land Development & Commercial Real Estate Problems

The seminar deals with a broad range of subject matter within the context of land development and commercial real estate. Its focus is on developing problem-solving techniques to deal with the issues raised by the subject matter. The areas covered by the seminar include planning and land use control issues related to subdivisions and urban developments, commercial real estate including a discussion of various business entities used in real estate transactions such as limited partnerships, joint ventures and co-tenancies; current problems respecting condominiums; a discussion of institutional and secondary financing, consideration of ground leasing techniques; mixed use developments, public-private partnerships and commercial leases, and the negotiation of agreements of purchase and sale.

Administration of Civil Justice: Estate Litigation

This seminar will examine the substantive, procedural, and practical issues surrounding litigating certain claims by and against estates. Topics may include, depending upon available time, a detailed review of will challenges, dependant support claims, appointment and removal of estate trustees, passing of accounts, quantum meruit claims, and solicitor’s negligence in drafting wills. We will also examine the role of mandatory mediation and other negotiation techniques in resolving estate litigation.

For each of these topics, we will explore how a client’s case is developed through the interaction of the case law, the Rules of Civil Procedure, the applicable statutes, the rules of evidence, and the psychology of the family unit.

Trusts

This course will provide a survey of key issues relating to trusts and trustees. The topics to be covered include: the juridical nature of the trust as a distinctive legal relationship, the reasons for which trusts are established (or come into existence by operation of law), the means by which trusts are established, and the different species of trusts, including express trusts, purpose trusts, constructive trusts and resulting trusts, and issues relating to trustee duties. Some equitable doctrines beyond the trust proper may be covered if time permits.

Real Estate Transactions

This course will use the standard Ontario Agreement of Purchase and Sale as a baseline to examine the leading academic issues and legal questions regarding real estate transactions in Ontario. We will focus on understanding how a real estate transaction works, the rights and obligations of the buyer and the seller of real estate, and the roles and obligations of the professionals involved in these transactions: the realtors, lawyers and mortgage brokers.

Real Estate Transactions

Real estate represents the single greatest source of wealth for Canadians and Canadian businesses.  It is complex with long standing historical roots. We will examine the agreement of purchase and sale which is the foundation of every real estate transaction, when is it enforceable, what should be in it, how it should be drafted and why, when to use conditions, promises or representations, how it is completed and what remedies are available for its breach.  Other issues which will be examined include the land registration system, real estate agents duties, mortgages and other security, mortgage remedies, title insurance, Planning Act, fraud and solicitor’s opinions.

Estates

This course will introduce students to the fundamental principles and law relating to wills and estates. The course will begin with the existential background to estate planning and law and review available alternative dispute resolution. This will be followed by an examination of the foundational elements of estates law, including intestate succession, wills, capacity to make a will formal validity of will, testamentary gifts, doctrines and limits on the power of testation, status of beneficiaries, principles of interpretation, revocation and alteration of wills, substituted decisions, administration of an estate, support of dependants, and estate solicitors’ duties and responsibilities. The course will also touch on family law considerations relevant to estate law.

Trusts

This course will provide a survey of key issues relating to trusts and trustees. The topics to be covered include: the juridical nature of the trust as a distinctive legal relationship, the reasons for which trusts are established (or come into existence by operation of law), the means by which trusts are established, the different species of trusts, including express trusts, purpose trusts, constructive trusts and resulting trusts, and issues relating to trustee duties.

The material for this course will be delivered in an asynchronous lecture format supplemented with optional synchronous sessions for questions and application.  In addition, there will be in-person content to whatever limited extent proves possible.  The asynchronous lecture content will be posted to the course Moodle page on the scheduled lecture days.  My lecture style and supplementary PowerPoint materials are well-suited to this method of course delivery.  All assigned readings will be supplemented by detailed PowerPoint materials.  These materials are not cryptic bullet point summaries of the readings.  Instead, they are carefully prepared to bring greater context, organization and coherent explanation to assigned readings.  All PowerPoint materials follow a disciplined, consistent and orderly format, breaking materials down by topic and sub-topic.  The verbally delivered lecture content tracks very closely with the PowerPoint materials, adding further explanation, context and debate to these materials.  If students scrutinize the readings, digest the supplementary PowerPoint materials and listen carefully to the recorded lectures, they will be equipped to succeed in the course.

I recognize that the law school experience needs to include opportunities for direct engagement with course instructors.  I strongly discourage students from treating the course as a purely passive learning experience.  In addition to participating in the optional synchronous sessions, students are welcome (as individuals or groups) to seek direct engagement with me on any aspect of the course on an “as scheduled” basis.  This engagement can occur through whatever platform works best, including Zoom, email or phone.  Students are invited to liberally draw on direct engagement opportunities to introduce themselves, ask questions about assigned materials, discuss principled disagreement with positions taken in the lectures and/or discuss the course (or the profession) more generally.

Opportunities for direct engagement with me will be at the option of students.  Law students are experienced adult learners with the agency to determine for themselves when direct engagement will facilitate their learning style and objectives.  Optional direct engagement is about giving students control over their own learning, allowing them to identify for themselves when direct engagement will further their learning style and course objectives.

Trusts

The objective of this course is to introduce students to the most important contribution of equity, the trust. The course starts with an historical introduction and a consideration of the principal purposes for which trusts are currently used. The topics to be covered include: the nature of the trust and its distinctive characteristics as a legal institution; substantive and formal principles governing the creation and administration of express private trusts; the concept of a fiduciary relationship and its contemporary importance in areas such as Crown/aboriginal relations; resulting and constructive trusts; variation and termination of trusts; the rights of a beneficiary of a trust; duties and powers of trustees; personal and proprietary remedies for breach of trust; and the use and development of trusts in non-traditional areas such as the environment and commerce.

Municipal Law

This course will seek to provide students with an understanding of the legal powers and duties of municipalities and the rights available to citizens, residents and taxpayers when dealing with local government. The course will examine the history of municipalities in Canada and their legal and policy frameworks, including the lack of constitutional status for local government. The course will trace the evolution of municipalities and their powers from the “Baldwin Act” in 1849 to the “modern” municipal legislative model that has been adopted in virtually every jurisdiction in Canada, with specific reference to the Municipal Act, 2001 and the City of Toronto Act, 2006.

Topics will include a review of the form and structure of municipal government; municipal powers and jurisdiction as well as duties and liabilities; the role of municipal council and the head of council; the role of statutory officers and municipal administration; by-laws and resolutions as municipal legislation; the doctrine of ultra vires; the open meeting rule; the inapplicability of the indoor management rule; the enforcement of municipal by-laws and challenges to municipal actions; the discretionary enforcement principle and the unique self-help remedy available to taxpayers in Ontario. The course will also canvas municipal elections, conflict of interest legislation, municipal accountability and transparency, the municipal financing framework and municipal freedom of information and protection of privacy laws.