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Publication: Globe and Mail, The
Issue: 20 October 2008, page B1
Title: A heartbreaking family secret
Web Link: link
A heartbreaking family secret
From Monday's Globe and Mail
October 19, 2008 at 11:43 PM EDT
Long after her parents were both deceased, Norma Jacques discovered a heartbreaking family secret.
Although her father had been one of the wealthiest men in Cambridge, Ont., Mrs. Jacques and her late husband struggled throughout their lives to raise seven children with little money, at times relying on welfare and charity.
Several years ago, the daughter of former Ontario cabinet minister Norman Hipel learned she was supposed to have inherited half of her father's estate after her mother's death in 1978, but received nothing, with the estate going entirely to her brother.
?I couldn't believe it happened,? Mrs. Jacques said in an interview. ?I didn't think my brother would do that to me.?
Now Mrs. Jacques is suing TD Canada Trust, a division of Toronto-Dominion Bank, for breach of fiduciary duty in administering her father's estate, alleging she was never informed about her inheritance. Mrs. Jacques' family alleges she is owed in excess of $10-million, although a valuation is still being completed.
TD Canada Trust has denied any wrongdoing in the administration of the estate. The trustee was Waterloo Trust & Savings Co., later acquired by TD Canada Trust.
?We believe this estate was properly distributed by Waterloo Trust & Savings back in 1978, and we plan to defend the action,? TD spokeswoman Kelly Hechler said.
The story came to light in 2004 after Mrs. Jacques, now 88, suffered a stroke and her daughter, Nancy Dasent, began reviewing her affairs. The family lives in Calgary and had been estranged from the Hipel clan in Ontario.
Ms. Dasent said she found a copy of her grandfather's obituary from 1953 and discovered he had owned a construction company and had been a prominent provincial politician.
She also learned that he served as minister of labour during the Second World War and was a former mayor of Preston, now part of Cambridge.
Ms. Dasent said her mother had said little about her parents because the family had disapproved of her marriage to a Catholic and they had lost contact over the years.
Ms. Dasent said she got a copy of Mr. Hipel's will from public archives and learned her mother was supposed to have inherited half his estate. Her mother had assumed her parents left her nothing.
?It was very difficult and very emotional,? Ms. Dasent recalls. ?At one point, she said to us, ?Now I know that my parents really loved me.'?
In fact, Mr. Hipel had crafted his will to require his then-flourishing construction company and his other holdings be put into trust after his death and managed to earn income to support his wife, Olive, throughout her life. After her death, which occurred in 1978, the assets were to be distributed to their two children.
Mrs. Jacques learned of her inheritance just months before her brother died in late 2004. In early 2005, she launched a lawsuit against his estate and TD Canada Trust.
The lawsuit accused George Hipel of mismanaging his father's construction company, N.O. Hipel Ltd., and improperly selling its assets in 1969.
Ms. Dasent said George Hipel's family has been surprisingly supportive and has agreed to settle the lawsuit. The Ontario relatives reported they had always suspected something was wrong, Ms. Dasent said.
The terms of the settlement cannot be disclosed, but Ms. Dasent said the family essentially turned over much of George's depleted estate.
?We've had nothing but total and complete support from this family,? Ms. Dasent said.
Now the focus of the legal battle has turned to TD Canada Trust, with the family arguing it did not properly oversee the preservation of Norman Hipel's assets or his company.
TD Canada Trust has rejected the family's claims of wrongdoing, and says Mrs. Jacques would have been notified of her inheritance and likely even got her money. The trust company has said it cannot locate its files in the case.
In its statement of defence, the trust said the value of the estate was just $115,422 in 1953, and that Olive Hipel survived for 25 years, during which ?the ravages of inflation and the cost of living? depleted the capital.
Ms. Dasent, however, argues that valuation only included her grandfather's personal holdings and not his construction business, which had 150 employees at his death.
The trust company filed a motion to have the case dismissed, but an Ontario judge ruled in January that the case should go to trial. A trial date has not yet been set.
In his decision, Mr. Justice Gerald Taylor did not accept TD's suggestion that it must have notified Mrs. Jacques about the estate because that was its typical practice.
?One could also conclude that for whatever reason, Waterloo Trust took a somewhat casual approach to administering Norman's estate,? Judge Taylor wrote in his decision. ?This could then lead to a conclusion that Norma, in all likelihood, was not advised as to her entitlement or the assets in Norman's estate.?