We’ve blogged on a number of occasions about the responsibility that comes with accepting the role of executor in an estate. An executor is responsible for administrating the estate of someone who has passed. Their responsibilities include actions such as distributing the deceased’s assets according to the will, settling any debts left behind, and wrapping up outstanding tax obligations. However, in a case recently reported on by the Toronto Star, one Ontario man says a contested estate he served as executor for left both his finances and his reputation in ruin.
The story explains that the deceased was a friend and client of the executor (who is an accountant). He was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2010. The deceased wrote two wills. The first left his entire estate to his common-law wife. He wrote another that left his assets to her as well as some of his friends and business associates. Both wills excluded his daughter.
The executor told the Star that the daughter was omitted from the will because she had been taken care of financially via a separation agreement the deceased made with his daughter’s mother (who was not his common-law wife at the time of his death).
The deceased passed away five months after his cancer diagnosis. The daughter contested the will, arguing that her father had “lacked capacity…(and) suffered from delusions,” which led to him omitting her from the wills.
Eventually, the wills were found to be invalid. The daughter had made two offers to settle before a decision was reached, but both were rejected. The first would have seen her receive her father’s cottage, his wedding ring, and his ashes. A second offer asked for $2.5 million. When the wills were eventually ruled to be invalid, the daughter was set to receive the entire estate, worth $7.5 million.
The court found that both the executor and a trustee personally liable for the daughter’s legal bills. This was following accusations by the daughter that the trial was “nothing short of a nightmare” and that there were attempts to disparage her character and play down her relationship to her father.
In addition to being partially responsible for the costs of the daughter, the executor told the The Star that trustee had been left with legal bills exceeding $900,000. He said he also paid $100,000 in legal bills. Neither the trustee nor the executor were able to collect their legal fees from the estate.
NULaw provides executors, trustees, and attorneys with fulsome advice on their responsibilities and obligations, and will help them mitigate any legal risks and liabilities so that they are protected and the best interests of the beneficiaries and estate are maintained. Contact us online or at 416-481-5604 for a consultation.