Who Has Standing to Bring a Will Challenge?

August 7, 2008 Hull & Hull LLP Estate & Trust Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

As I am sipping on my coffee this morning, I am thinking to myself, who can commence a will challenge? 

A will challenge can be commenced pursuant to 75.06(1) of the Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 75.06(1) is a procedural remedy that permits any person who appears to have a financial interest in an estate to apply for directions or move for directions in another proceeding.   This begs the question, who is considered to have a financial interest in an estate? This issue was addressed in the Ontario Superior Court (Divisional Court) decision of Smith v. Vance.

In Smith, the Deceased died on October 27, 1995, leaving a will dated January 5, 1994 which named the applicants as the estate trustees.   A notice of objection was filed by three individuals who were cousins of the deceased through marriage. The objection was subsequently struck by the Honourable Justice Perras during the motion for directions on the grounds that the objectors did not have a financial interest in the subject-Estate. In this hearing, the objectors appealed this decision.

The objectors asserted their financial interest in the Estate based on their close relationship with and their physical and financial assistance for the deceased. There was also an earlier destroyed will in which the objectors were named beneficiaries. Finally a letter was allegedly written by the deceased wherein she acknowledged that the objector will have an interest in her estate.

The court acknowledged that a financial interest is not defined in the Rules of Civil Procedure. In such cases, words should be taken by its natural meaning. Black’s legal dictionary defines financial interest as an interest equated with money or its equivalent. The court held that claimants must do more than simply assert an interest. They must present sufficient evidence of a genuine interest and meet a threshold test to justify inclusion as a party. The interest need not be conclusive evidence at that stage but must be evidence capable of supporting an inference that the claim is one that should be heard. 

If the evidence offered by an objector is capable of supporting an inference that the claim raises a genuine issue, and thus is one that should be heard, the objector is entitled to standing and should be granted permission to be added as a party. The appeal was allowed and the order by the Honourable Justice Perras was set aside.

I hope you had fun reading today’s blog. Until tomorrow,

Rick Bickhram

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