When a person dies, they leave behind their ‘estate’. An ‘estate’ is a legal term to describe the deceased’s assets and debts. The estate needs to be administered; someone must actually do the work of paying the outstanding debts, collecting debts owed to the deceased, filing taxes, and finally distributing the deceased’s property according to a Will that the deceased made or the rules that apply to divide the estate where there is no will or where the will doesn’t capture all assets that the deceased owned at death.
The most common types of litigation that arise in such circumstances include:
- Will contests, to determine is a will is valid or which will should be used to administer the estate if there is more than one will.
- Will interpretation questions.
- Complaints against one or more estate trustees (‘executors’), that might require a Court to intervene.
- Disputes about how the estate trustee has used the assets of the estate or proposes to compensate himself or herself.
- Disputes over whether property is owned by the estate or someone else (especially jointly held property like a joint bank account).
- Life insurance claims, RRSP designations, and other such ‘will-substitutes’.
- Dependant’s Support claims, where the deceased is said to have left inadequate support for someone entitled to support from the estate.
- Issues involving the use of a Power of Attorney involving the deceased’s property.