Disputes Arising From Estate Beneficiary Rights
Many estates face litigation. Due to the emotional impact the death of a loved on has, these estate fights often involve higher conflict than other litigation issues. At the core of these disputes are estate beneficiary rights. These rights arise from both legislation and a person’s will. Further, when an executor ignores estate beneficiary rights, conflict and tension follow. The most important responsibility of the executor is to act honestly and in good faith. The role includes a fiduciary duty to all the beneficiaries. Estate disputes arise from a real or perceived failing to follow these fundamental principals by the executor. The following includes a look at these rights and the obligations of a executor (now referred to as a personal representative). The estate litigation lawyers at Kahane Law Office, with offices in both Calgary and Edmonton, represent either estates or beneficiaries to assist with estate conflicts.
What Is An Estate?
An estate is the material possessions of someone who passed away. An estate often contains a variety of assets. For example, an estate may include money, homes, businesses, investment accounts, etc. After a person’s passing, the personal representative or executor distributes the estate to the beneficiaries. Estate disputes often emerge from either the management of the estate or the distribution of the assets.
The first question that often emerges involves the people includes as beneficiaries. A beneficiary includes people names in a will, or who receive the benefit of an estate under intestacy laws. In some situations, often a result of a poorly drafted will, a single estate may include beneficiaries under both legislation and the will. Estate beneficiary rights to extend to all people entitled to a portion of the estate.
Who Receives Notice Under An Estate
Notice about the estate extends past estate beneficiary rights in Alberta. The Estate Administration Act requires notice to a number of people when somebody passes away. For example, the following people have a right to notice under Alberta law:
- Immediate family members of the person who passed away;
- Beneficiaries under the will;
- Any spouse of the person who passed away;
- A “common law” partner or Adult Independent Partner of the person who passed away; and lastly
- Trustees or guardians of any of the above.
Any person excluded from receiving notice, has a right to apply to the court for a court order requiring the executor to provide them with information and regular updates. It is also important to note that personal representatives have no obligation to provide information or notice to a person lacking a legal interest in the estate.
When To Send Notice
An obligation exists to provide notice as a part of probate and applying for a letter of administration (if a person passes intestate). Depending on the specific assets in an estate, not all estates require an grant of probate or letter of administration. In these situations, the executor should still provide notice as set out above to avoid an application to the court under estate beneficiary rights.
Specific Estate Beneficiary Rights In Alberta
All people named in an estate have specific rights set out in both legislation and the common law. For example, these estate beneficiary rights include the following:
Accounting Of Assets
As a part of administering an estate the executor or personal representative has a positive duty to provide an accounting to the beneficiaries of the estate. The accounting lists all the assets and debts of the estate. In addition, the accounting also lists any income to the estate. In circumstances where the executor fails to provide an accurate accounting, personal liability often results from any intentional misrepresentations. This estate beneficiary right is one of the key elements under law that all estates face.
Regular Updates On The Estate
In the role of executor, requires that beneficiaries receive information on the estate and regular updates. Often, the more transparent the administration of an estate is, the less disputes that arise from the administration of the estate. For example, regular updates as to the assets, debts, status of probate applications, liquidation of assets (such as a business, home or other real estate), timing of distribution, etc.. Typically, updates as to status go out on major milestone steps, as well as if any delay occurs (or is expected to occur). In some instances, executors send out notice of a plan of action to allow for beneficiary input.
A Timely Distribution Of The Estate
Most beneficiaries prefer to receive their portion of the estate in a timely manner. All estates differ in terms of an appropriate time for distribution, however, in all circumstances the law requires distribution in a reasonable time. Failure to act, or intentional delays of distributions, may lead to personal liability of an executor. Further, estate beneficiary rights include the ability to remove an executor who fails to act in a timely manner as below.
The role of personal representative includes a lot of flexibility. One of the duties they face is to treat all beneficiaries fairly and equally. The rights of all beneficiary under and estate are equal. For example, common examples of unfair treatment includes the following:
- Allowing one beneficiary to live in any home of the estate rent free
- Permitting one beneficiary to select assets of the estate in priority to others; and lastly
- Unequal distribution of assets when required.
Removal Of Personal Representatives / Executors
When an executor or personal representative fails to act in accordance of the law or the estate, estate beneficiary rights include the right to remove that person. Our estate litigation lawyers often face situations where the beneficiaries want to remove the executor. We act for either the estate or the beneficiary to help resolve the issue or litigation the matter in the courts. Some executors step down voluntarily, when they realize they lack the ability or time to administer an estate. In other circumstances, the executor fight the application for their removal. In these situations, the executor uses the estate assets to pay for the legal fees. Conversely, a beneficiary uses their own funds to pay for this type of litigation.
Our estate litigation act to protect either the estate, the executor or the beneficiaries. In the event of a dispute, litigation often arises involving any of the three. In any given situation, our representation is limited to one party to avoid conflicts. Before escalating a potential conflict over estate beneficiary rights, we recommend an initial consultation. This allows a person to understand their rights, obligations and legal position. The leave understanding what to do and not do to protect themselves and / or the estate. In addition, the discover the answer to any of their questions surrounding the estate.
Estate Beneficiary Right Lawyers
We understand estate beneficiary rights. We act to protect those rights or defend when a person demands something not included in their rights. When you face a dispute or concern regarding an estate, email or call. Our role is to help. To serve you quicker, please email us details of the problem you face. Email us at this email address. Alternatively, call us for help in Calgary and surrounding communities at (403) 225-8810 or in Edmonton and surrounding communities at (780) 571-8463.