A Gift in Life or in Death?

A person cannot create estoppel by representation without a representation and the designation of a beneficiary in registered account, like a TFSA, is not an inter vivos gift. These are the primary takeaways from Roberts v Roberts, 2021 ABQB 945.

Beatrice Roberts was an independent woman who managed her own finances and did so carefully. When she died, she wanted to divide her estate equally between her four children and one grandchild. However, she also set up a tax-free savings account (TFSA) and designated just one of her children, Peggy Campbell, the sole beneficiary of it. All her children were aware of the TFSA, and yet it still became disputed when Mrs. Roberts passed away, leaving over $53,000 inside. One of her children claimed Peggy promised the funds would be split into five and was now estopped from doing otherwise as one the Roberts Estate’s personal representatives. Others also claimed that, regardless, the TFSA designation was an inter vivos gift subject to the presumption of resulting trust from Pecore v Pecore, 2007 SCC 17.

The Honourable Justice Kubik found nothing of the sort. There was no evidence raising issues of incapacity or undue influence, so Mrs. Roberts knew what she was doing. Mrs. Campbell legally could not make any binding representations regarding the TFSA while Mrs. Robert’s was alive since Mrs. Campbell did not own or control the TFSA. Besides, there was no uncorroborated evidence to show Mrs. Campbell had done so. Lastly, the presumption of resulting trust never arose because the TFSA designation was not an inter vivos gift: the gift only could occur at Mrs. Roberts’ death. Further, the Wills and Succession Act, SA 2010, c W-12.2, makes clear that the valid designation of a beneficiary through an instrument associated with a registered account like a TFSA is equivalent to one done by Will. This was an entirely valid disposition for Mrs. Roberts to make, and therefore Mrs. Campbell would receive it.