There are many steps involved in the administration of an estate with a Will. A first step involves the Estate Trustee (formerly referred to as the executor) carefully reviewing the Will or Wills (in Ontario it is possible to have multiple Wills), gathering relevant documents and identifying assets and debts. Of course even more immediate is the planning of a funeral and burial of the deceased. It may also be necessary for the Estate Trustee after gathering the necessary information to “probate” the Will which in Ontario is now called an application for a “Certificate of Appointment of the Estate Trustee with [or without] a Will”. This is the Court procedure for the formal approval of the Will by the Court as the valid last Will of the deceased. It is also the confirmation of appointment of the person who will act as the Estate Trustee of the estate. This process gives the Estate Trustee the authority to act on behalf of the deceased. This responsibility is a serious one, involving a duty of loyalty and a duty of care, in acting only in the best interests of a beneficiary.
It is not unusual for there to be disagreements or issues arising over the steps taken by the Estate Trustee. When these arise, it is important that the problem is addressed early and appropriately. Often, issues between the Estate Trustee and one or more beneficiaries can be resolved through discussion. At law, an Estate Trustee must act reasonably. The duty owed is to the Estate, the Estate Trustee does not take instructions from the beneficiaries. Nonetheless, steps taken by an Estate Trustee may be challenged in Court, and in the appropriate circumstances the Court will grant relief removing the Estate Trustee and appointing a substitute.
Our lawyers are experienced in these matters, having assisted Trustees and Beneficiaries alike. If an out of court solution is available, we have the experience to find it. If litigation is required, we have the team to provide efficient and cost conscious representation.