Estate & Trust Disputes Litigation
Estate litigation involves disputes among family members, friends and associates in the area of wills, ownership of property, and caring for the elderly or those unable to care for themselves or manage their personal and financial affairs. Estate litigation issues are not limited to matters that arise after a person has died but may also involve issues that arise before someone’s death.
Below is a list of some of the issues that arise in wills litigation, trust litigation, and estates litigation:
- Claims under the Part 4, Division 6 of Wills, Estates and Succession Act, by or against a surviving legal or common-law spouse, children, and/or adopted children, of someone who died with a valid Will that is considered unfair or unreasonable;
- Whether a Will is valid;
- Applications regarding the interpretation or construction of provisions in a Will;
- Claims regarding the proper administration of a deceased’s estate by an executor or administrator;
- Disputes over ownership of property in the case of resulting trusts;
- Trust claims or trust litigation involving the true ownership of assets, such as bank accounts and property;
- Breach of duty claims under a Power of Attorney or Representation Agreement;
- Elder abuse, including financial abuse; and
- Applications or nominations for committeeship to assist elderly persons or others who are unable to care for themselves or manage their affairs.
Wills Litigation, Trusts Litigation, Estates Litigation Related to the Ownership of Assets
At times, people in close relationships, and family members in particular, will enter into financial and non-financial arrangements to facilitate transactions, such as the purchase of assets. Often, the terms of their arrangements may be unclear and conflicts as to ownership rights may arise. You may have a right to a claim in unjust enrichment, and we can help you enforce it. In Ontario, a court may impose a constructive or remedial trust as a remedy in these types of situations. We are able to advise and represent you in matters related to disputes over the ownership of assets, including the following:
- If you agreed to purchase land with someone else and both of your names are on title, whether as joint tenants or as tenants in common, but there is now a disagreement over who owns the land and in what proportion;
- If you contributed money to the purchase of a property but your name is not on the title of that property and now there is a disagreement over who rightfully owns the land and in what proportion;
- If more than one person is listed as the holder of a bank account or a joint bank account and there is a dispute over who owns the money in the account;
- If you made non-financial contributions to a house or property and now there is a dispute over whether you are entitled to a portion of the property;
- If you received money or property but there is a dispute over whether it was a gift (these gifts may be considered a resulting trust);
- If you have a dispute similar to those described above, but in relation to non-land property (e.g. cars, personal property, etc.) and there is a disagreement over the ownership of the assets; and
- If you have concerns about the validity of inter vivos trusts or other trust documents.
Wills Litigation, Trusts Litigation, Estates Litigation Related to the Care of a Person
When your family members are healthy, they can understandably care for themselves and make important decisions. However, due to age, health problems, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or other reasons, a person may become unable to care for him or herself or unable to make important life decisions involving his or her financial and legal affairs. In these situations, an application to the court may be required to appoint a person(s) to make these decisions on their behalf. This person(s) becomes the “committee”. We can help you navigate the adult guardianship laws that govern the care of incapable persons, including the Representation Agreement Act, the Health Care (Consent) and Care Facility (Admission) Act, the Adult Guardianship Act and the Patient Property Act. We are able to advise and represent you in matters related to assisting people who become incapable of managing themselves or their financial affairs, including the following:
- If a person becomes unable or incapable of caring for him or herself or making decisions related to his or her health care;
- If you suspect an elderly person is physically, emotionally, or financially abused by another person and you need to know your options;
- If there is an investigation into an incapable person’s finances by the Public Guardian and Trustee and you have the Power of Attorney or you are Committee and you want to know your rights and responsibilities;
- If an application is made by someone to take control of the care of another and you want to challenge it; and
- If a person has authority over the care and control of another person and you want to challenge their authority to act on behalf of that person.
Wills Litigation, Trusts Litigation, Estates Litigation Related to Elder Abuse
Often, as members of our family age or encounter health problems, they need assistance managing their personal, financial and legal affairs. Unfortunately, they are placed in a position that is also vulnerable to financial and emotional abuse or neglect by others. When a person, such as an attorney under a Power of Attorney or a legal representative under a Representation Agreement, is entrusted with the care of another, the caregiver should act in the best interests of that person. In doing so, the caregivers must fulfill certain legal duties called fiduciary duties that are required of them to ensure the proper care of their ward. The duties and powers of these various individuals may be set out in legislation, such as the Power of Attorney Act, Representation Agreement Act or Trustee Act, or at common law or “judge made” law. We are able to advise and represent you in matters related to the care of others, including the following situations:
- If you are a caregiver and you are unsure of what fiduciary duties you must fulfill;
- If another has alleged that you as a caregiver have not fulfilled your fiduciary duties and you need to know your options in responding;
- If you suspect an elderly person is being physically, emotionally, or financially abused by another person and you need to know your options;
- If you suspect a caregiver is breaching his or her fiduciary duties towards the person they are caring for and you need to know if you or someone else can intervene; and
- If a person has authority over the care and control of another person and you want to challenge their authority to act on behalf of that person Estate and trust litigation is a complex area of law.
We have extensive knowledge, experience, and expertise to help you with wills, trusts and estates litigation. As with any dispute, there may be sensitive deadlines in the Limitation Act or other legislation that you must meet to ensure that your rights are protected.