Last year we reported about a dispute among the siblings of a Canadian figure skater turned artist who passed away in Mexico, leaving a very valuable estate behind. The matter has finally been resolved, and we wanted to let our readers know about how it turned out, particularly in relation to costs, which were significant.
Brothers don’t agree with how sister manages estate
The original decision explained that the deceased had two brothers and a sister. He had no will in place when he died, which meant the estate was divided equally amongst his siblings. His estate included over 20,000 pieces of art.
The deceased’s sister was named executor of his estate, and she and the brothers got along at first. However, things started to turn sour when the brothers disagreed with how she was managing the sales of the deceased’s artwork. One of the main points of disagreement was the sister’s partnership with art galleries that were commissioned to sell the artwork. The brothers thought that her actions were both flooding the market with the deceased’s artwork, which drags down prices while also giving too much commission to art galleries.
Brothers file 300 objections to sister’s handling of estate
The sister was ultimately able to continue selling the deceased’s artwork, but that did not mean that litigation had come to an end. Over the course of litigation, the brothers filed over 300 objections to how their sister was handling the affairs of the estate. Of these 300 objections, only five were determined to have had any merit. Additionally, a large number of these objections were withdrawn at the last minute. The only objection that was successful and described in a recent report from the CBC was an accounting error made by the sister which involved $50,000 in shipping and insurance charges.
Sister seeks cost
Having been successful at almost every stage of litigation, the sister came to the court seeking $390,000 in costs. The brothers came in at the opposite end of the spectrum, arguing that $100,000 would have been more reasonable.
The court noted that it has discretion when it comes to awarding costs, and that while there is a general principle that the loser pays, they can be made to pay more than normal if there are reasons to do so. In this case, the court held that conduct demonstrated by the brothers was so unreasonable that they should have to pay a significant portion of their sister’s legal expenses. However, the court did not award the sister the full amount requested since five of the brothers’ objections were found to be valid. However, the court did award her about $325,000.
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.