Imagine how surprised you would be if you worked for an employer and they simply forgot to pay you. Family caregiving is a lot like that. Thirty per cent of Canadian caregivers spend more than 40 hours a week supporting a family member. It can feel pretty unfair if you get left out of a will after years of caring for an aging parent.
Giving Up Your Life to Care for Others
Take Chondra’s example. The shoe store manager, single and childless, gives up her job and apartment to move into her parent’s Niagara Falls home. Her 79-year-old father has Parkinson’s. After he moves to a long-term care home, she stays for another three years to help her mother. She’s 73 and has trouble getting around.
The Dutiful Daughter
Chondra cooks, cleans and shops for her parents. She helps them bathe and dress. When their bills are due, she uses a power of attorney for property to cash their pension cheques. Chondra is a loving, dutiful daughter the rest of their lives.
Tradeoffs for Family Caregivers in Ontario
As is so often the case, her parents die within a month of each other. Chondra is sad, but knows they had a good life to the end, with her help. She continues living in their home and gets a job cleaning offices at night. She’s 58 and cleaning has been her whole life for the past seven years. Her plans to adopt a child went out the window with her retail job. She hasn’t had time for dating.
Have You Been Left Out After Years of Caring?
Chondra is in for another surprise. When she opens the mailed notice of applications to probate a will a few months later, she’s shocked to discover her parents have left everything to Bill. Her younger brother lives in Manitoba and rarely visited, phoning her parents at Easter and their birthdays. The estate trustee assures her there’s no mistake. As a matter of fact, she’ll have to move out so Bill can move in or sell their parents’ home.
Quantum Meriut Claims in Ontario
Chondra doesn’t know it yet, but as a Niagara Falls wills and estate lawyer will soon explain, she has a potential Quantum Meruit claim. Her parents may have unjustly enriched themselves at her expense by making promises they failed to keep, in exchange for something in return. In Chondra’s case, she cared for her parents in their final years, believing they planned to remember her in their final wills and estates.
Making a Quantum Meruit Claim
Chondra recalls being promised their Hanan Avenue semi-bungalow worth $389,000, her father’s 2015 Hyundai Elantra (valued at $5,995) and her mother’s diamond and white gold wedding ring ($2,700). All in exchange for sacrificing her personal life to care for them. What’s Bill done to deserve anything?
How Courts Assess Legal Claims Against Estates
Her wills and estate lawyer plans to argue in an Ontario court that Chondra met the test for a Quantum Meruit claim because she:
- provided goods or services to the will-makers (her parents)
- they benefitted from her goods or services
- and she had no legal obligation to provide the goods or services.
Since Chondra was left out of the will, their estates can be sued for unjust enrichment.
Witnesses Help Unjust Enrichment Case
She could be right. It’s up to an Ontario judge to weigh the legal evidence. Anything Chondra’s parents put in writing, to her or others, about her role is helpful. Testimonials from her parents’ close friends won’t hurt her case either. Her parents’ bank manager and financial advisors are witnesses that she had legal power of attorney. She has a letter from her father’s long-term care home. Her lawyer could serve a subpoena on Bill to testify about his family “contributions”.
Court Remedies for Caregivers’ Contributions
Chondra is firm that her parent’s promises should be enforced. She wants the house, car and wedding ring. Bill is not so keen. Without her parents around to explain their reasons, Chondra’s lawyer plans to tell the court they might have thought Bill would provide for her after their deaths. Chondra’s not taking that chance. Either Bill gives her the assets she was promised or she wants cash for her services all these years.
Duty Before Death
Who could blame Chondra for wondering how Bill got away scot-free with no responsibilities and all the rewards. Times have changed. Being dutiful is one thing. But being left out of a will or family assets is not going down well with her.
Legal Advice From Ontario Family Lawyers
Before you sue a family member, get legal advice from Axess Law’s Ontario wills and estate lawyers. Book an appointment by calling toll free to 1-877-552-9377 or 647-479-0118 in Toronto or use our online booking form. Our licensed lawyers video conference with you anywhere in Ontario, 7 days a week, day or evening. In person appointments can be arranged at our Ottawa, Toronto, Scarborough, Etobicoke, Vaughan, Mississauga Winston Churchill or Mississauga Heartland law offices.
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