Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee

Office Snapshot

  • Location: Toronto, with 5 Regional offices
  • Lawyers: Approx. 30
  • Articling Students: 3
  • Summer Law Students: 3
  • Types of Law: Access & Privacy, Administrative, Charity, Civil, Constitutional, Contract, Corporate, Corporate Governance, Employment, Environmental, Family, Health, Housing, Human Rights, Insurance, Mental Health, Pensions, Real Estate, Real Property, Tax, Torts, Trusts & Estates

Who we are

The Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee (OPGT) functions in accordance with the Public Guardian and Trustee Act. Although part of the Ministry of the Attorney General, the OPGT operates as a corporation sole. The office was established 90 years ago to fulfil the government’s unique parens patriae role (Latin for: “parent of the country”) of protecting those persons who cannot protect themselves where there is no one else available, suitable, and/or willing to provide such protections.

As such, the mandate of the OPGT is extremely broad, and includes:

  • Managing the property and personal care of incapable adults
  • Acting as the litigation guardian or the legal representative for incapable persons involved in litigation
  • Making treatment decisions on behalf of incapable individuals
  • Administering estates where there is no other estate trustee
  • Plays a role in safeguarding charitable property
  • Performing the functions of the Accountant of the Superior Court
  • Administering property that escheats to the Crown.

The OPGT Legal Services Branch has approximately 30 lawyers directly involved in fulfilling these mandates.

Unlike most other government agencies, the OPGT often acts on behalf of individuals, not necessarily government bodies. As such, there is direct and meaningful client contact. Our office provides a unique opportunity to represent individual persons within the context of a government office.

What we do

Our office is composed of five units: Guardianship Services, Litigation Services, Corporate Legal Services, Estates and Charitable Property.

Guardianship Services and Litigation Services

The Public Guardian and Trustee acts as guardian of property for adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities when there is no one else willing or able to do so.  When acting in this capacity, the Public Guardian and Trustee is responsible for dealing with any legal issues that arise for the client, except criminal and immigration matters.

The Public Guardian and Trustee also acts as litigation guardian of last resort for parties under legal disability involved in civil litigation, and as a legal representative of last resort for special parties involved in child protection or matrimonial litigation.

Lawyers in the Guardianship Services and Litigation Services deal with a wide range of legal matters, including:

  • Real estate
  • Landlord and tenant
  • Estates
  • Corporate
  • Contracts
  • Civil litigation
  • Guardianship applications
  • Passing of accounts
  • Child protection
  • Matrimonial law
  • Bankruptcy law. 

Corporate Legal Services

Corporate Legal Services provides services to the Public Guardian and Trustee as a corporation and as an arm of the provincial government.  More specifically, Corporate Legal Services is responsible for:

  • Providing legal and policy advice to the Public Guardian and Trustee
  • Assisting on regulatory and legislative initiatives of the office
  • Handling requests made by individuals for access to information in the office under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act
  • Disposing of any property that falls to the Crown when a corporation dissolves without disposing of its assets.

Estates

The Public Guardian and Trustee also acts as estate trustee of last resort for solvent estates when there are no appropriate persons in Ontario who can act in this capacity.  Lawyers in the Estates area provide a wide range of legal advice and services to the Public Guardian and Trustee, namely:

  • Applying for certificates of appointment of estate trustee
  • Selling real estate
  • Negotiating and settling claims against estates
  • Locating heirs
  • Dealing with estate tax issues
  • Liaising with litigation counsel when the estate is involved in litigation.

Charitable Property Program

The Charitable Property Program plays a role in safeguarding charitable property in Ontario.  Lawyers in the Charitable Property Program are responsible for:

  • Conducting corporate reviews of charity applications
  • Receiving and reviewing public complaints or allegations regarding charities
  • Reviewing accounts
  • Representing charitable interests in litigation. 

A wide range of legislation affect and impact the legal work carried out by our Legal Services Branch, including but not limited to the Rules of Civil Procedure, Family Law Rules, Substitute Decisions Act, 1992, Absentees Act, Crown Administration of Estates Act, Business Corporations Act, Charities Accounting Act, Charitable Gifts Act, Religious Organizations’ Lands Act, Escheats Act, Estates Act, Public Guardian and Trustee Act, Trustee Act, Health Care Consent Act, Mental Health Act, Family Law Act, Powers of Attorney Act, and Succession Law Reform Act.

Our major cases

  • Rahman v. Jahangir:  Guardian of Property/ Family Law - The Public Guardian and Trustee successfully defended a claim for child support on the ground that significant disability expenses may be classified as “undue hardship” under the Child Support Guidelines
  • Ontario (Public Guardian and Trustee) v. AIDS Society of Children (Ontario):  Monitoring Charities/ Trusts - The Court held that charities are fiduciaries and are accountable to the public for the funds they collect.
  • Azzopardi v. Potomski: Investigation/ Privacy Law - The Public Guardian and Trustee was granted access to medical information during the course of an Investigation.
  • Marcoccia (Litigation guardian of) v. Ford Credit Canada Ltd:  Intervenor/ Solicitor’s Contingency Fees - The Public Guardian and Trustee was asked by the court to review a retainer agreement on behalf of a party under disability. 
  • Del Grande (Litigation Guardian of) v. Sebastian: Guardian of Property/ Civil Procedure - The Court held that a third party beneficiary could not veto a binding settlement agreement entered into by the respondent and the Public Guardian and Trustee, on the incapable client’s behalf.
  • Campbell v. Evert:  Guardian of Property/ Guardianship - Family members of an incapable person could not agree on who was to be appointed the incapable person’s guardian.  The Public Guardian and Trustee was appointed guardian of last resort in this matter.

What students do

We provide both the summer law and articling students an opportunity to learn about various areas of the law while at the same time assisting the most vulnerable people in society.

Articling

Our articling students gain knowledge about the various areas within our office by rotating through three different areas: Guardianship Services, Litigation Services and Corporate Legal Services/Charitable Property Program. The work varies depending on the rotation, and students are generally exposed to a wide array of work including family, estates, real estate, general civil litigation, corporations, charities and mental health law. The students:

  • Conduct legal research
  • Prepare memoranda of law
  • Prepare court documents
  • Attend court and tribunals
  • Review passings of accounts
  • Interview clients and other third parties.

The OPGT Articling Committee provides students with feedback at the end of each rotation. 

Summer Law

The OPGT gives summer students a rich and varied work experience by providing them with work from all areas of the office. The students:

  • Prepare research memoranda
  • Prepare court materials
  • Draft correspondence
  • May attend at tribunals
  • May prepare documents for the tribunals.

During the summer, our students are exposed to a variety of subject matters including family, estates, charities, real estate, corporations, torts, health law, tax and many other subjects.

Why choose us

Our students are exposed to challenging and interesting work. The environment allows them an opportunity to gain a great deal of legal knowledge and experience while at the same time dealing with clientele who have intellectual or developmental disabilities.   

Our office has often been described as being similar to a private general-practice law office. The students who work in our office receive hands on experience that will benefit them throughout their legal career. 

Many of our former counsel and articling students have become prominent members of the Canadian legal community, including:

  • The Honourable Louise Gauthier - Regional Senior Justice, Superior Court of Justice
  • The Honourable Susan Himel - Superior Court of Justice
  • The Honourable Mary Jo Nolan - Superior Court of Justice
  • Jay Chalke - British Columbia Public Trustee
  • Maneesha Deckha - Professor at the University of Victoria
  • Carmen Theriault - Works with Bull, Housser & Tupper where she leads the firm’s Trust, Estate Planning and Estate Administration Group
  • Dianne Saxe - one of Canada’s leading environmental lawyers
  • Nicholas Hedley - President of the Association of Law Officers of the Crown

Contact us

Mara Farmer
Client Counsel
mara.farmer@ontario.ca
(416) 314-6053

Sidney Peters
Legal Counsel, Litigation Department
Sidney.Peters@ontario.ca
(416) 314-2084

Nicholas Hedley
Legal Counsel, Charitable Property Program
Nicholas.Hedley@ontario.ca
(416) 326-7807