The federal New Democrats are being tight-lipped about receiving $1.6 million over the past year from the estate of a war veteran whose will was contested by his daughter after she was bequeathed just $25,000.
The woman alleged in an affidavit filed in Ontario Superior Court that her father, Peter Kirk Sinclair, was suffering from dementia when he changed his will in September 2009 to leave her $25,000 of his estate.
A previous version of the will from June 2009 said she was entitled to 80 percent of his assets and 20 percent would go to the NDP, the affidavit said.
Shawne De Simone, a New Jersey resident, challenged the will in court, stating that a caregiver had questioned Sinclair’s state of mind in the weeks and months before signing both versions of the will.
“The worker employed felt that my father, Peter, had dementia to the extent he was unable to remember, was forgetful, repeated statements and had limited or no short term memory,” De Simone said in the affidavit, signed in New Jersey on Sept. 26, 2012.
“She found him confused. He became frustrated and agitated with day-to-day routines or following instructions. He was unable to take care of himself and any of his finances or pay bills. He did not appreciate his net worth or even the value of his home.”
Several weeks after his second wife passed away in January 2009, Sinclair called the police in Ottawa to report her missing, the affidavit said.
De Simone also alleged in the statement that her father didn’t read the will and couldn’t remember the meeting when he had signed it, the lawyer or the contents of the will.
“When asked, he denied leaving anything to the NDP,” she said in the affidavit. “To my knowledge my father did vote for the NDP party although he never contributed to it.”
By December 2010, three months after the date on the final will, she said that her father “was in need of 24-hour care and had been assessed incompetent.”
Ontario Superior Court Justice Paul Lalonde dismissed her claim against the NDP and the estate trustee, BMO Trust Company, on Nov. 8, 2013, confirming the validity of Sinclair’s will.
An out-of-court settlement was reached between De Simone and the NDP after Lalonde’s ruling, according to a source in the party. It’s not known what the nature of the settlement was because of a non-disclosure agreement between them.
Lawyers for the NDP party and BMO Trust Company declined to comment about Sinclair’s gift to the NDP.
No response from De Simone, via requests to her lawyer, H. Richard Shanbaum, were immediately received by the Star.
The Hill Times, an Ottawa-based politics weekly, reported that Sinclair’s estate was worth about $2.3 million when the lawsuit was first launched. The Star wasn’t able to verify that figure.
Less than two weeks after the court ruling, the NDP reported to Elections Canada a $600,000 contribution from Sinclair’s estate. This was followed by a $400,000 contribution on Jan. 10, 2014 and another $600,000 contribution on March 13, 2014 — all from Sinclair’s estate.
Under the Fair Elections Act — introduced by the Conservative government and adopted by Parliament last spring — a person now can bequeath a maximum of only $1,500 to a political party in a will.
Under the previous rules, the NDP appeared to have an advantage over the other parties, collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent years from estates, including $100,000 from the late Jack Layton, who left the party two payments of $50,000 in 2011 and 2012, following his passing.
Air Force Veteran
Sinclair, described in his obituary as a former air force veteran from the Second World War, was 89 when he passed away on March 10, 2012.
De Simone, 61, was born in North Carolina, where Sinclair lived with his first wife and completed his master’s degree.
According to De Simone’s affidavit, Sinclair lived in Montreal from the 1960s to the 1990s, working as a college professor. She said she visited him several times a year after he moved to Ottawa in the mid-1990s.
De Simone said her father suffered a stroke in 2007 and then began to show “signs of incapacity, which increased over time.”
Mitchell Leitman, an Ottawa-based lawyer, who signed Sinclair’s Sept. 25, 2009 will as a witness, said he couldn’t answer questions about the case because the information was protected by solicitor and client privilege.
“I can confirm that my former firm acted for him (Sinclair) and his late wife,” said Leitman in an email to the Star. “And that I had acted for him for some time, perhaps two years. I cannot comment on any action that may have been brought respecting his estate.”
He also said that the total value of Sinclair’s estate was privileged information.