Areas of Expertise
Disputes often arise involving the estate of a person, sometimes even before the person has passed away. When disputes occur, we represent heirs, beneficiaries, estate representatives and trustees (both individual and corporate) to assist in resolving those disputes and to bring or defend claims in court if necessary.
Before death a person may become unable to make personal or financial decisions without assistance. We help family members and others obtain the appointment of a representative for such persons to ensure they are properly taken care of and assisted during their later years and the integrity of their estate is maintained.
After death, the task is to ensure that the deceased’s estate is properly accounted for and distributed according to law. The most important document is the deceased’s will (and any other estate planning document prepared prior to death).
We assist where there is a question of whether the deceased had the required knowledge or mental ability to make a will or to dispose of property or where there is an allegation that the deceased was subject to improper influence when they made their will. We also provide advice concerning the proper meaning and interpretation of the words used in a will.
But even if a will is valid, it still may be challenged. Spouses and children of the deceased have a statutory right to advance a claim to vary the terms of a will in their favour. And disputes may arise concerning whether the will includes all or only some of the deceased’s property at the date of death
A valid will (or the deceased’s estate if there is no will) must be properly administered. The deceased may have appointed a representative to undertake this task or a representative will need to be appointed by the court. That representative is under a duty to marshal (collect in) the property of the deceased, ascertain and then pay the deceased’s bills, and then distribute the estate to the proper heirs and beneficiaries of the deceased, all the while providing necessary information to those interested in the estate.
We provide legal advice concerning disputes that arise during the course of the administration of an estate. Such disputes may include a challenge to the appointment of a representative or to the proper handling of the estate and may involve compelling the disclosure of estate information from the estate representatives to those who are interested in it. We also represent and provide advice to estate representatives about their legal duties and responsibilities and estate accounting.
Our Estate Litigation group works closely with the lawyers in our Wills, Trusts and Estates group as well as in our Tax group who bring a significant depth of knowledge and experience to assist in the resolution of estate matters and disputes.