Year: 2015

The recent case of Cosentino v. Cosentino has an interesting treatment of contingent tax liabilities owing at separation.  The decision confirms the willingness of courts to discount even tax liabilities where, at the date of separation, they are uncertain.  In the Cosentino case the tax liability did not exist at the date of separation, but arose after.

Justice Perkins wrote:

It would be stretching the meaning of “liability” to include an obligation that arose later, merely because it was calculated in relation to a year when the parties were still living together. Not only had the reassessment not come into existence on the valuation date, but also there was no suggestion that it was coming. Taking a financial snapshot of the husband on that date, no one would have suggested he was subject to any contingent liability for income tax.

The decision once again confirms the approach of valuing contingencies prospectively.  The approach requires looking at the circumstances that were in existence at the date of separation  rather than in hindsight.


Married spouses share in any increase in the value of family property between the date of marriage and the date of separation.  When the marriage ends, the spouse with the lower Net Family Property receives a payment for one-half the difference in the two.  That means an equalization payment.
The debt that a spouse brings into the marriage will impact on the spouse’s equalization entitlement.
What happens when the face amount of the debt is greater than its “real value”?  Should a court reduce the face amount of the debt to reflect the likelihood that it will remain unpaid?  The Ontario Court of Appeal was recently confronted with that issue for a debt owing on the date of marriage.
In the case of Zavarella v. Zavarella, the Court of Appeal discounted the wife’s date of marriage debt to zero.  The wife owed about $60,000.00 on the date of marriage.  She had made an assignment into bankruptcy a few weeks before the date of marriage.  Under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, the debt remained owing until the wife’s discharge from bankruptcy.  Given the wife’s assignment into bankruptcy just before the marriage, there was no prospect of payment of the debt.  The Court discounted the debt to zero.
The Zavarella case is consistent with the Court’s approach of discounting of family debts based on likelihood of repayment.  In the past, the Court of Appeal has discounted debts owed to family members because they are not likely to enforce them.  The Court has also allowed parties to discount assets based on the contingent costs of realizing the asset.  The court has allowed parties’ to reduce the value of those assets by the anticipated legal fees on the date of separation.
In each case, the Court has used a prospective approach rather than hindsight in valuing the debt.


We don’t like worrying about the future. We don’t want to think about what happens to our house or money after we’re gone.

But what about our loved ones? Our loved ones will have enough to worry about.  If the worst happens, we can make life easier for them by planning ahead.

We have practiced estate law for years.  We know that preparing a will can be draining . We can guide you through the steps and explain your best options.

Preparing a will ensures that your property will be dealt with according to your wishes. You can make sure that a cherished family heirloom stay in the family.  You can decide if your common-law-spouse lives out his or her life in your house.

Part of your estate plan involves a power of attorney. Ontario has three different types of powers of attorney.  You choose another person to make decisions on your behalf. Do you expect needing a medical proxy to help you make healthcare decisions when you are incapacitated? You may want to start planning now.  You can make your wishes known in case of your future incapacity.

These are difficult issues to think about, but they are too important to ignore. Consult a lawyer with expertise in the area of estate planning.  Give yourself peace of mind about the future.