Estate litigation may be prompted by multiple reasons. One of them is the manner, in which estate trustees handle the administration of the estate. While for many there may be a sense of pride in being named an estate trustee (executor) of an estate, the reality is that it is a big and sometimes difficult job.
On its face, it may not seem like an arduous task. Paying the debts of the deceased and distributing the remaining assets to beneficiaries sounds straightforward. However, the assets may not be easy to uncover and other tasks associated with the job, such as navigating the digital assets of the deceased, business interests and family lines, can be complicated and take a lot of time. One expert identified over 70 separate tasks, for which estate trustees could find themselves responsible.
The tasks that estate trustees find that they are responsible for vary from simple to complicated and, depending on the estate, could include:
- Securing a tax clearance certificate from the Canada Revenue Agency
- Winding down businesses
- Dealing with foreign properties
- Dealing with ongoing lawsuits
When estate trustees experience either difficulty in completing the tasks, or pushback from beneficiaries regarding any of the tasks in the administering the estate, they could face litigation. Due to a variety of reasons, including the transparency of the process and the sophistication level of the beneficiaries, litigation tied to estate matters is increasing. While an estate lawyer can be of assistance in those situations, working with one from the outset could help to avoid disputes, altogether.