Date: 18 Sep, 2023| Author: Fred Streiman

The facts of this case can be found at Part 1 of this blog

The court reviewed as we have in other blog articles various areas of law such as the law of resulting trust and undue influence, the most important of which is the 2007 Supreme Court of Canada decisions in Pecore and the 1991 Geffen v Goodman Estate case.

The presumption of resulting trust is based on the foundation that the court’s starting position is there must be a contract and an exchange of value rather than a gift. However, the presumption can always be rebutted by evidence and there was clear evidence in this particular case that indeed the intention was to make an actual gift.   In other words the starting point is no one does anything for free, and if you say it was for free prove it, or lose.

The father also raised an ancient equitable legal doctrine known as unconscionable procurement. It is debatable whether or not this indeed is the law and the Ontario Court of Appeal in the similarly named Geffen v. Gaertner 2019 would not  confirm that unconscionable procurement indeed is valid law. The Nova Scotia court in Fairfield described the doctrine as follows; the doctrine of unconscionable procurement applies where the party seeking to set aside a wealth transfer transaction is able to prove two things.  A person obtains a significant benefit from another by gift or other voluntary wealth transfer and the person obtaining the enjoyment of that benefit was actively involved in procuring or arranging the transfer from the maker.

When those two elements are present, presumption of fact operates that allows the court to infer that the transfer was not properly explained or fully understood by the maker. The court is entitled to scrutinize the situation with its moral sense awakened with a view to deciding whether the maker fully appreciated the effect nature and the consequence of the transaction.

In as much as the doctrine is one of equity, the court is ultimately being asked to decide whether the transaction is conscionable or unconscionable. The onus is on the attacker to prove that the maker did not enjoy the full appreciation mentioned above and that as a result is unconscionable.   In plain English and as an example.  Adult son takes Dad to his lawyer and has Dad sign documents gifting Son a large bank account.  Son’s sister learns years later of this “Gift” and claims unconscionable procurement.  It is sister’s job to get her foot in the door.

In essence, there may have been both doctrines at play, namely unconscionable procurement and further the doctrine of resulting trust.  However both of them merely aid the court when there is a lack of clear evidence one way or the other.  In this particular case, the evidence was clear to the point and we simply had a father who had changed his mind after being warned repeatedly and independently of the consequences of his actions. Sorry no take backs.