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No trustee for Third St. home left town's hands tied, says mayor

Court-appointed trustee confirms handwritten will made it not practical or possible for town and charities to use house as affordable or at-risk housing
Legally known as the Culbert House, part of the late Gloria Culbert's estate, this home at 167 Third Street has been deteriorating since her death in 2019 as court proceedings dragged on. The home was left to the Town of Collingwood, Home Horizon, and Habitat for Humanity with the idea it could benefit the unhoused in Collingwood.

In what was likely a gesture made with good intentions, a late Collingwood resident tried to bequeath a home to the town and two charities in the interest of keeping people at risk of homelessness in a house. However, what has followed is several years of court processes to sort out an incomplete plan for the execution of a woman's final wishes. 

Gloria Culbert died in June, 2019, and through a handwritten will, left a home at 167 Third Street to three beneficiaries: the Town of Collingwood, Home Horizon and Habitat for Humanity South Georgian Bay. There were and still are tenants living in the home, though it's unclear how much rent they paid or whether they continued to pay rent following her death. 

Prior to and over the past few years while the matter has made its way through the court system, the property has continued to deteriorate physically, with the OPP being called regularly for various disturbances and violence at the residence. There appeared to be a high turnover of tenants at the building who stayed for short- and long-term stints. 

Today (June 1), the home at 167 Third St. was put on the market for a price of $899,000, following years of court proceedings to determine how to deal with the property. 

While the town referred media inquiries on the Culbert property to estate trustee Clarke Melville late last week, on Thursday, Mayor Yvonne Hamlin issued a public statement on the matter.

“Gloria Culbert was a true community champion with a charitable heart to help vulnerable people in our community,” Hamlin wrote in her statement. “She was well-known throughout Collingwood, with residents remembering her as a ray of sunshine riding her bicycle around town with a basket full of flowers and a big smile on her face. She was active in arts and culture, tai chi and had many friends in town.”

In the statement, Hamlin clarified that while the town, Habitat for Humanity South Georgian Bay and Home Horizon were named beneficiaries, Culbert did not appoint a trustee to manage the estate in her will, so none of the three parties were able to manage the estate while the matter made its way through the court. According to Hamlin, the beneficiaries still also have to be confirmed by the court.

Melville was appointed by the court on April 3 as estate trustee to control and manage the property. Melville’s role is to act on orders issued by the court, which include selling the house.

In an interview with CollingwoodToday earlier this week, Melville confirmed that Culbert's wishes were outlined in a "holographic will," which is a term used for handwritten wills.

"The will asks that the three parties carry out the enterprise," said Melville. "It doesn't seem practical or possible that those three named entities could do that."

Melville said that once he has the proceeds from the sale in hand, he will make an application to the court to seek direction on how to deal with the proceeds.

“Once the trustee has concluded the estate matters, the courts will have to confirm the eligible beneficiaries to ensure that the intent of Ms. Culbert’s wishes are met,” noted Hamlin in her statement. “We hope that the town will be confirmed as one of the beneficiaries so we can use our portion of any proceeds to support initiatives to increase the affordable housing supply, and honour Ms. Culbert’s intentions as much as we are able.”

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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen brings 14 years of experience to her role as reporter for Village Media, primarily covering Collingwood and education.
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