At Vancouver Cremations, we understand that having a loved one pass away is a deeply tragic and difficult event. It can be made even more troubling when the individual leaves an outdated or unjust Will behind. In some situations, individuals may wish to contest the Will of the deceased through an action known as Estate Litigation.
Estate litigation generally refers to legal proceedings to resolve disputes over the assets of a person who has passed away. In these situations, time limits are often critical, so if issues concerning the administration of an estate or distribution of assets to beneficiaries arise, call your legal representative as soon as possible.
The team at CBM Lawyers represents a variety of clients in Estate Litigation disputes.
These are their top 5 methods of estate litigation:
- Contesting the Validity of a Will
The first step in contesting a Will is to check the validity of the document. To make this happen, a Probate action must be commenced. The Probate action is a court-supervised process that investigates whether the Will is legally valid. A Will is generally deemed valid by the court unless someone comes forward with legitimate concerns. There are specific bases upon which a Will may be challenged. These reasons include lacking the capacity to sign, undule influence, and/or fraudulent activities. A Will cannot be contested just because an individual does not agree with the outcome.
- Varying a Will under the Wills, Estates and Succession Act
If someone passes away and leaves a valid Will behind, the Will can be varied under British Columbia’s Wills, Estates & Succession Act. In the BC Supreme Court, only the children or spouse of the deceased can apply to have the Will varied. The Court will determine the appropriate variation, if any, given the size of the estate, the financial means of the individual making the claim, the relationship the individual had with the deceased as well as other factors.
- Estate Administration Disputes
The estate executor or administrator is responsible for distributing the assets to the estate’s beneficiaries. Estate administration is undertaken by the individual named as executor in the Will or by an administrator appointed by the court to administer the estate. If an interested party feels that the administrator has unfairly administered the estate, he or she can take a number of steps, including having the executor removed or having the executor’s accounts passed in court. Challenging the conduct of an executor or administrator often requires the assistance of a lawyer in relation to the appropriate procedures for ensuring that an estate is administered properly.
- Committeeship Applications
A committeeship application is the last resort when someone lacks the capacity to manage his or her own affairs or execute a power of attorney. A committee can make decisions for someone else who can’t make decisions for themselves, whether through illness, age, or any number of factors. A committeeship is court-appointed in these circumstances to ensure that the person who has lost capacity is looked after in respect of his or her legal, financial, and personal affairs. A court may apply more than one individual as part of the committeeship.
- Breach of Duty Claims under a Power of Attorney
A breach of fiduciary duty claim may be commenced when an individual, tasked with administering a Will or estate, is not upholding his or her legal responsibilities. A person appointed under a Power of Attorney or a Will is held to a high standard and must act ethically. All actions by such individuals must keep in mind the best interests of beneficiaries and interested parties. Failure to perform this duty can lead to legal action and serious consequences for the person acting in a position of trust. If someone in this role is abusing their power or making choices based on personal interests, he or she may be relieved as attorney or executor and required to account for his or her conduct.
The CBM team works closely with our Corporate, Commercial and Estate Litigation group to represent clients in estate disputes. If you have an issue with how an estate is being administered or with how assets are being distributed or you believe you’ve been left out of a relative’s will unjustly and you want more information about the legitimate grounds for challenging a will, you may wish to find out more about our Estate Litigation services.