Property Division for Cohabitants
ALRI is considering how the law might best provide for division of assets and protection for individuals and families when cohabitation arrangements break down. Rules for property division on relationship breakdown do not necessarily have to be the same for non-married cohabitants as for married persons to be considered fair. These rules could be different. A number of options will be carefully considered.
Rule Against Perpetuities
The Rule Against Perpetuities (RAP) is an old and complex set of legal rules designed to prevent people from indefinitely typing up land and assets via successive contingent interests of title so that future generations cannot sell, mortgage or enjoy full use of the property. In 1972, Alberta reformed the worst excesses of RAP in our current Perpetuities Act, which seeks a reasonable balance between competing interests. But has the time come to repeal RAP altogether? Do modern legal mechanisms now exist which could handle the situation better and more simply? ALRI is examining these issues and will consult on them in a forthcoming Report for Discussion.
Matrimonial Property Act
The Matrimonial Property Act was enacted in 1978. Since then, there have been significant changes to economic, political, and social attitudes and expectations regarding the distribution of property between spouses on marriage breakdown. Given that changes to the MPA have been minimal during the 35 years that the MPA has been in force, the Alberta Law Reform Institute is examining whether certain elements of the MPA should be updated to better serve the needs of Albertans.
In 2010, a case study was completed for ALRI that identified “the most frequently raised and the most troublesome issues” that Alberta courts deal with regarding matrimonial property. Of the issues addressed in that case study, ALRI has selected three topics to examine in closer detail – debt, dissipation, and date of valuation. Depending on the feedback ALRI receives in regard to these issues, amendments to the MPA may be recommended.
 See Jonette Watson Hamilton & Annie Voss-Altman, “The Matrimonial Property Act: A Case Law Review,” Research Paper (2010), para 1.
The Alberta Law Reform Institute published Report for Discussion - Matrimonial Property Act: Valuation Date, November 2014 along with a corresponding online survey. The report can be downloaded from our website here. Individuals who would like to participate in our survey can do so at bit.ly/mpasurvey.
The Alberta Law Reform Institute is undertaking a project to reform Alberta’s non-profit incorporation legislation. ALRI conducted a preliminary assessment which concluded that non-profit incorporation legislation in Alberta had not kept pace with the needs of non-profit organizations in the province or with reforms in other Canadian jurisdictions. In the next phase, ALRI will meet with an expert group and prepare materials for external consultation.
In April 2013, The Muttart Foundation hosted a four day consultation conference in Banff, Alberta. The results of the consultation were summarized into a consultation report which can be downloaded here. Presentations have been conducted for LESA seminars in Edmonton and Calgary and ALRI has conducted a province wide survey to grassroots organizations.
ALRI published Report for Discussion 26 - Non-Profit Corporations, February 2015. The report can be found here. A shorter paper for non-profit agencies is also on the ALRI website here.
The Uniform Law Conference of Canada (ULCC) approved the Uniform Reviewable Transactions Act in 2012. The URTA is intended to replace the statutory and common law of fraudulent preferences and conveyances. As the ULCC noted:
The Reviewable Transactions Act does not depart radically in policy and function from the pre-reform law designed to protect unsecured creditors. However, it provides a comprehensive set of clear rules designed to overcome the uncertainty produced by more than a hundred years of incremental legislation and judicial decisions addressed to creditor-defeating dealings.
The primary benefits of the Uniform Reviewable Transactions Act, according to the ULCC, are that it brings a clear set of rules that are better harmonized with the federal Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act.
ALRI is currently studying whether the Uniform Reviewable Transactions Act should be implemented in Alberta and if so, how this should be accomplished.
Competence and Communication in the Alberta Evidence Act
On occasion, a court must determine whether a proposed witness is competent to give evidence. The question arises with child witnesses, and may also arise for adults with cognitive impairment. Alberta legislation about competence has not kept pace with modern knowledge about children's abilities, and fails to address adults with cognitive impairment. It also has a gap affecting witnesses who use alternative means of communication.
Trustee Act Project
The Uniform Law Conference of Canada (ULCC) produced the Uniform Trustee Act, 2012 and recommended that it be adopted by the common law provinces. ALRI participated in that process. As the ULCC noted, the two main purposes of trustee legislation are:
- Establish the authority needed to properly administer trusts in situations where the authority has not been adequately described in the document which creates a trust; and
- Describe the court’s power to direct trustees and otherwise intervene if necessary to ensure that a trust functions properly.
The primary benefit of the Uniform Trustee Act, according to the ULCC, is that it updates trustee legislation so that it continues to fulfill these purposes in a way that is consistent with how modern trusts operate.
ALRI is working to determine how to implement the Uniform Trustee Act in Alberta. ALRI will issue and consult on a Report for Discussion in 2015 with a Final Report to follow in 2016. ALRI anticipates the Trustee Act Project will be the subject of a joint consultation between ALRI and the Alberta Department of Justice. The Final Report will provide policy and technical guidance to help ensure the proposed changes to the trustee legislation reflect Alberta' law and practice.
A copy of the Uniform Trustee Act, 2012 can be downloaded from the ULCC website here.