Estate litigation often arises out of long-simmering family rivalries that only come into play after the death of an important family member. Frequently, the concern is the behaviour of the representative the deceased has appointed to carry out his or her wishes.
A testator may often appoint a family member or some combination of family members to be estate trustees, hoping that the individuals appointed will act responsibly and reasonably, only to “roll over in their graves” when those expectations are not honoured by those they trusted.
Estate litigators are frequently asked as to what they can do to assist beneficiaries or co-trustees who are frustrated by the actions of a misbehaving trustee. The answer used to be “not much” short of writing pleading or threatening letters. However, increasingly the courts are assisting in controlling the behaviour of estate trustees who abuse their position or fail to properly exercise their power, by removing trustees who do not act in accordance with their responsibilities.
This article originally appeared in the March 4, 2016 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.