Attempting to provide some balance in the Charles will saga
These past few days have been difficult for my wife and I, particularly because of some things written about my wife without a scintilla of evidence.
Long before either will was drafted, I witnessed my wife taking care of her elderly parents with little assistance from anyone other than myself.
She had a full-time job and she was juggling her time between three homes trying to take care of her own household responsibilities and that of her elderly parents.
It was never heard in court how we had to childproof our home because my father-in-law ate the scented potpourri on our coffee table. We assisted him to eat his meals by cutting his food in childlike bites so that he would not choke. We also helped him by taking him to the toilet. He also accompanied us on our honeymoon so that he would be taken care of.
Unfortunately, the overseas Canadian psychologist retained by Trott & Duncan gave evidence via Skype without ever seeing the man in person.
He was privy to information contained in the selected bundle of documents sent for him to make a competency assessment of my deceased father-in-law.
I personally witnessed my father-in-law’s slow but progressive descent into dementia long before either will was drafted. His ability to carry a decent conversation was impaired.
It is interesting to note why Trott & Duncan did not arrange for my father-in-law to have a cognitive assessment when he was in their offices drafting his will or even have him bring documents attesting to his cognitive awareness so that all would be assured that high ethical standards were carried out.
None of this was done as best practice would indicate, particularly on a man close to 90 years old. Furthermore, the psychologist did not know that on two occasions while attempting to retrieve his deeds from a law office in Hamilton, he behaved clearly in a manner that indicated that he was not in control of his mental faculties.
Paul Harshaw, who represented the late Clarence James and by extension the lodge, never entered into evidence an affidavit submitted by his client that my father-in-law was not of sound mind. This submission was done in 2002. By the way, Dr James had a very good relationship with my father-in-law by virtue of them being lodge members.
It should also be noted neither defendant nor executor appeared at trial. They presented illness as an excuse for their absences, yet one was seen driving his vehicle in town on that same day of the trial. The court should have been made aware of it, as this fact was communicated to Rick Woolridge, who represented my wife at trial.
The result was that whereas my wife underwent stringent cross-examination by Delroy Duncan, his client was never cross-examined because he never showed up for trial.
The person or persons who believe that my father-in-law was fully competent to draw up his will, I want you to consider this: on the will that he helped to create, he called his daughter his wife, who was dead at the time. Also, the instructions that the creator of the 1999 will took while she was taking instructions from my father-in-law do not coincide with the contents of the actual will. What does that mean?
Finally, I am not a lawyer and I never ever had occasion to write a letter to the editor. However, I felt compelled to try to add some balance to the discussion.
This certainly is a miscarriage of justice from start to finish. The learned judge in his summation stated that he agreed with the findings of the hired gun — the psychologist — and even if he did not agree with him, his decision would have been the same.
If that was case, what chance did my wife have of getting a fair trial?
I heard one lawyer comment at the end of the trial that this was a good day for us. Perhaps a $25,000 day. This comment came from a lawyer who should not have been there in the first place. Incidentally, the amount of lawyers’ fees quoted in the March 9 newspaper of $500,000 is a far cry from what it really is.
I will conclude that dementia is a progressive disease. Dementia was listed as a cause of death of my father-in-law.
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