It’s not uncommon for people to assume they don’t need to write a will because they don’t own a lot of property, or they may assume that their property will be distributed to their family upon their death. However, even uncomplicated estates should have wills. In fact, everybody should have a will no matter how much or how little property they have. A recent decision from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice serves as a great example of how seemingly small disagreements over an estate can lead those involved through a path of litigation, costing all involved time, money, and emotional hardship.
A few key disagreements
The deceased was a husband and father. He was referred to by his family and friends as “Bud.” Bud owned a home where he lived with his second wife (the “wife”). The wife was named estate trustee along with his friend and daughter. Notices of objection were filed by Bud’s two sons, “J” and “M”.
J told the court via an affidavit that he had a strained relationship with Bud’s wife as well as his sister. The court described some of the factors that led to this distrust, including the addition of the wife as an estate trustee shortly before Bud’s death. In addition, J and M discovered that there had been a memorandum to Bud’s will which left his wife “the contents of the home, his personal possessions not otherwise dealt with in the Will and any vehicles, tractors, all-terrain vehicles, farm equipment and the like, and vacation trailer.”
J objected to specific items, including two rifles that were in Bud’s possession, but that J said belonged to him. The estate trustees did not return the rifles, and J responded by calling the police to state they had been stolen. J also objected to how the estate trustees had managed some aspects of Bud’s estate, including being slow to collect money owed to Bud’s business and in selling land with soybeans on it before the soybeans could be harvested.
In the meantime, the estate was upset because J had logged into Bud’s business’ online banking to pay himself $3,900, which J claimed was owed to him.
Sorting through the estate
The court noted that despite the events that had occurred, it appeared as though all involved honestly attempting to sort through Bud’s estate, though self-interest and distrust of one another may have coloured their recollections.
The court found that the estate trustees had been acting reasonably. The estate trustees had considered the debts to Bud’s business to be uncollectable. They also stated that the soybean crop could not be harvested because the crops were ruined by rain. The court believed this, stating that Bud’s wife and daughter, who made the decision not to harvest the crops, would have financially benefitted from their sale.
The court also believed J when he said that the rifles in Bud’s home were his, and ordered them returned. However, the court stopped short of blaming the estate trustees for claiming they belonged to Bud, since they had been in his possession for many years.
In the end, the issues were not that complicated to sort through. But Derfel Esates Law recognizes that disputes such as this are common. If you are the friend or family member of a testator and are concerned about the appointed trustee or executor, contact Derfel Estate Law. Our Toronto estates lawyers help clients ensure that their interests or the interests of their loved ones are protected, and decisions are being made in the best interests of the estate. Call us at 416-847-3580 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.