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A judge has cut the commission in half for the executor of a Halifamous hotelier’s will.
The Atlantic Jewish Foundation had disputed the nearly $900,000 commission Halifax lawyer Alan Stern charged for handling Abe Leventhal’s nearly $18-million estate.
The foundation — slated to get about $7 million from Leventhal’s estate — appealed Stern’s $896,692 commission, arguing that a reasonable commission would be “substantially lower.” The commission Stern charged, and that the registrar of probate approved, was about five per cent of Leventhal’s estate.
“A five per cent commission of close to $900,000 is not reasonable. It provides for a windfall,” Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Jamie Campbell said in a written decision released Tuesday.
“A five per cent commission for a substantial estate like this one should be reserved for estates for which there have been complicating features that require more than wise and careful planning to maximize the value of the estate.”
The work Stern did “would justify a substantial commission,” said the judge.
“The Leventhal estate however was not a long-term commitment. The work was done in about a year and a half. The actual time spent by Mr. Stern was conservatively recorded as being 77 hours. For some people, that’s less than two weeks’ work.”
Campbell ruled a commission of $450,000 — just over half of what could be awarded — is more suitable in this case.
“It is a very substantial amount that reflects fair compensation for the high level of responsibility, the time and effort spent, as well as the skill shown by the executor, while falling short of a windfall or a bequest,” he said.
“The commission is a form of compensation for work, responsibility and success. Mr. Stern earned that amount and is entitled to it. A larger amount would have the effect of reading into Mr. Leventhal’s will a bequest to his friend that he did not make.”
Key staff at Leventhal’s Waverley Inn got specific amounts in his will after the businessman died in March 2016 at the age of 90. Calvin Blades, who managed the historic Barrington Street hotel, got $600,000 from the estate. Some other long-term employees each got $50,000.
Halifax’s Baron De Hirsch Congregation and the Shaar Shalom Congregation each got $500,000 from Leventhal’s estate. Other beneficiaries included Dalhousie University, the QEII Health Sciences Centre, the Salvation Army, and Doctors Without Borders Canada.
Built in 1865, the Waverley Inn boasted former guests including Oscar Wilde and P.T. Barnum.
Sterling Hotel Ltd., headed by Nassim Ghosn, purchased the building in 2016. It is still operating as the Waverley Inn.