The Strange Case of Gerald Flurry vs. Fuller

Stanley Fuller of Vanderhoof, British Columbia, Canada, died in July 2000. His last will done in 1997 distributed just $1,000 each to his three adult children, while giving all the rest, approximately $1,000,000 to the Philadelphia Church of God. Also, Fuller had named Gerald Flurry to be the new executor of Fuller's estate. The Fuller children contest their father's capacity to make the will, and ask that the will be varied so as to increase their shares at the expense of the church's share. Flurry's Philadelphia Church supports the will and gift.

Rosemary, Stanley Fuller's daughter, testified that by 1993 her father was well aware that his land had a value in excess of $1 million. Mr. Fuller sold this land. The purchase price netted to Mr. Fuller more money, by several orders of magnitude, than he ever had before. After paying capital gains tax of some $600,000 on the transaction, Mr. Fuller was left with roughly $1.8 million in cash.

Justice Rodgers, who presided at the trial, writes in his opinion that the gift of $200,000 to each of his children was not the only gift Mr. Fuller made in 1995:

"[H]e also gave $260,000 to his church by way of a tithe. Mr. Fuller understood that his obligation was to give the church 10% of the increase in value of his property. Shane testified that his father showed him a calculation he had done of the tithe he was to give to the church after the 3/4 section was sold. Shane recalled that Mr. Fuller started with a tithe of $300,000. That is, of course, more than 10% of the $2.5 million the sale brought in. Shane testified that he understood from his father that in some years the tithe is greater than 10% depending on the church's need...

Mr. Fuller regularly attended Fall and Spring meetings of the Church. Sometime between the Fall meeting in 1996 and the Spring 1997 meeting Mr. Fuller spoke to Rosemary about how his money should be invested. This was a normal conversation for the two to have. That is because in 1995 Mr. Fuller made Rosemary a joint owner of his bank accounts and investment certificates. He sought and heeded her advice concerning the investments he should make. It is clear that in 1995, at least, he trusted her completely.

When he returned from the 1996 Fall meeting, however, Mr. Fuller told Rosemary that he did not want his money to be locked into inflexible and non-liquid investments. He said that he wanted to have his money readily available because according Church doctrine he might have to retreat with his money to a 'place of safety' on only two weeks notice (emphasis mine). Rosemary was not keen on this idea, and said so to her father. She pointed out that the investments she recommended would return higher interest than the more liquid investments he wanted to use. Mr. Fuller replied that he was not concerned about the lower interest rate. I find that to have been an entirely reasonable response by him; Mr. Fuller had ample money and did not need to maximize his investment income in order to meet his modest needs. Rosemary went further, though. During this conversation she questioned the bona fides of the Church. She suggested that the head of the church was not the good man Mr. Fuller believed him to be; that the Church was after his money; and that he might come to a tragic end such as the poor unfortunates at Jonestown. Jonestown is, of course, the spot in the Guyanese jungle where hundreds of Jim Jones' followers died by poison. Rosemary says that as soon as those words were out of her mouth her father took an expression of deep anger and she knew that she had gone too far in her questioning his faith in his Church. From that point on relations between her and her father cooled and became strained.”

Find out how it turns out here.

Justice Rodgers did go on to say:
"The children do have a point when they say that the plaintiff Mr. Flurry and the defendant Church were one and the same. They are right in that observation. Their interests were identical, there was no lis between them, and they were represented by common counsel. I direct that the executor and the Church may present a single bill of costs for payment by the estate. As an aside I say that it would have been much preferable for Mr. Flurry to have resigned as executor and to have confined his participation in the suit as a defendant. As it is he decided to wear two hats, and unless one has two heads to accommodate them, that is often an uncomfortable proposition."

Finally, in 2004, the B.C. Court of Appeals upholds Justice Rodgers finding no reversible error here.


agatecrispy said...

From the conclusion, PCG still got 50% of the proceeds, with the rest being split by the kids. Not much of a victory, if you ask me. The less money clever Gerry gets, the better.

Anonymous said...

The conclusion is not correct.If you read the transcripts more closely you will find the last will was over turned. The "church" (used loosely)only received 20 percent of the estate.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing "strange" about the case. That is a colored characterization of the case.