Will Challenge Litigation – Part 2 – Hull on Estate
Listen to Will Challenge Litigation – Part 2
This week on Hull on Estate and Succession Planning, Ian and Suzana continue their discussion on the Will Challenge Process, step by step.
They cover how a comprehensive preliminary investigation can help litigation and discuss how a motion of claim is filed to set the stage to move forward with a trial.
Core documents that accompany these stages are:
- Medical records
- Solicitor’s notes
- Financial disclosure
The next stage is the discovery process and will be the topic that gets next week’s podcast off to a start.
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Will Challenge Litigation – Part 2 – Hull on Estate and Succession Planning
Posted on August 26, 2008 by Hull & Hull LLP
Welcome to Hull on Estate and Succession Planning, a series of podcasts hosted by Ian Hull and Suzana Popovic-Montag, that will provide information and insights into estate planning in Canada. From the offices of Hull Estate Mediation in Toronto, here are Ian and Suzana.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Hi, and welcome to Hull on Estate and Succession Planning. You’re listening, and some of you may be watching, Episode #127 of our podcast on Tuesday, August 26th, 2008.
Hi there, Ian.
Ian Hull: Hi Suzana.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: How are you today?
Ian Hull: Just great, thanks.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: That’s good
Ian Hull: Looking forward to our second attempt at the video casting combined with the podcasting. So we want to turn back to this whole Will challenge process. And in our last podcast, we were talking about situations where people come to see us where they feel that they have been left out of the Will or those who come to see us who want to uphold the Will. And today we’re going to talk about the process itself. Now, we ended our last podcast talking about Will challenges in the context of what were the importance of the testamentary documents, what were the Wills and why we needed to get them under control. Today we’re going to talk about the process, the litigation process. Now interestingly enough, while we practice in downtown Toronto in Canada here, the process itself is generally very consistent throughout different jurisdictions. And so what we want to talk a little bit about today is the global litigation process. And for those of you watching, we’ve got our Smart Board up and running and we’re going to spend some time walking through our chart that we find very helpful with our clients to talk about the process itself.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: And the very first step for those of you who can see it is the preliminary investigation stage. And this is where we try to find the basic known facts. And during our last podcast, we talked about things like developing the family tree, developing and understanding of the background of who the deceased really was, what their life was like, what the circumstances surrounding his or her Will making was all about. And so this is where you start in the whole process by getting the story, getting an understanding of the players and then we take it to the next level.
Ian Hull: And so we’re working through our chart here. We’ve started with our preliminary facts, alright. And the investigation into this. Now this stage has to be done fairly comprehensively. We want to get the information at the outset, but we’ll need to then go back and do some digging. And sometimes follow-up with witnesses or get a better sense of the type of evidence that’s out there. Because again, with a Will challenge, we’re mostly focusing on questions of capacity, questions of undue influence, pressuring the elderly person or the person who is doing the Will to do something that you may or may not think they should be doing.
The next step is setting the stage for the litigation. Now here in Ontario, we typically do it by way of a motion. But it doesn’t really matter. What happens in all jurisdictions is that the claim gets commenced, either by a Statement of Claim or a writ or some document that’s filed with the Court that starts the process. And as I say, in Ontario, we actually bring a motion, we go to the Court and set the stage, setting out what legal issues are at stake in the process.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: And, of course, the ultimate goal of a motion for directions is to obtain an Order giving directions. And we tell clients that that really is a map work of the litigation process, it gives the timelines for when things will be done, it gives authority to individuals to collect some of the documentation that is crucial for a Will challenge and it most often deals with vesting someone with authority to deal with the estate, pending the entire litigation process.
Ian Hull: So we’ve got a couple of things here. Because if we remember, when we started this litigation, it actually stops the administration of the estate, it puts everything on hold. So that’s no good. There’s bills to be paid, the funeral expenses, there’s things to be done that have to be done no matter who wins or loses this lawsuit. So at the motion for direction stage, getting the Order, one of the things we get and we’re going to come back to, is that you talk about who has the authority. We’re going to talk about what we call here in Ontario an estate trustee during litigation. But before we come to that, Suzana is going to talk about that, is I just want to mention that at this Order we will get, let’s talk a little bit about what we’re going to get at that Order. And that Order, we’ve already said, is going to set the stage, who’s challenging the Will, who’s defending the Will, and all those with a financial interest are put on notice. It also gives us expansive roles of an ability to get documents organized, to do investigation. Coming back to this, we talked about the preliminary investigation. But we can’t do a preliminary investigation properly without getting some of the core documents.
Now Suzana, what are some of the core documents that we’d be looking for at this disclosure stage at this point?
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Well typically, Ian, those documents will include three different types of information or evidence that we’re going to try to get so that we can establish our Will challenge and proceed with it. Firstly, there’s the medical records; secondly there’s the solicitor’s notes; and then thirdly, there is in many cases the financial disclosure, the financial records that will help build a Will challenge case as well.
Ian Hull: So in the course of getting this Order, we will want to have as expansive as possible, so that we can pull in as much of the relevant documentation as we can. And we’ll often take sort of a three year window, going back three years, maybe going forward three years, in that range. Now sometimes each case is different, but we’ll go back and get all of the medical records of the individual, especially if we are alleging capacity and so on. So now let’s talk about, so presumably we can get together all of this documentation. Once we get the Order, we send it to these third parties like hospitals and we had a case recently we sent them to the dentist because this gentleman had seen a dentist many times right around the time of the Will. You wouldn’t always think of that individual as being someone to be involved with.
So once we get the disclosure organized in the Order, the other thing you mention Suzana, was the appointment of someone with authority, and which we call an estate trustee during litigation. But forget our terminology, it’s someone who has authority, a litigation trustee is essentially what happens.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: And the reason we need this individual is because as Ian just said, as soon as you start a Will challenge, the administration is essentially frozen. So you are actually challenging a Will that may or may not appoint an executor. And as soon as you do that, then that appointment is in question. So we need to vest someone with authority to act on behalf of the estate in the meantime, and that’s this litigation administrator. The old terminology used to be just an administrator, an individual who can act on behalf of the estate.
Ian Hull: Okay, Suzana, the tough question is though who will take this job on and on what circumstances do they typically take it on?
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Well that’s a good question, Ian and it’s usually a very contentious one as well because in many situations, the person who has been named will try to hold onto their job as the executor. That may or may not work, depending on how contentious that appointment is and the Will challenge itself. There’s always an opportunity to have a neutral third party put in, and that really is based on the cases that have been resolved out there, that’s the Court’s preference. To put someone in who has no vested interest in it but will administer the estate during the course of the litigation.
Ian Hull: And often that entity is a trust company. We see that a lot of times because they are professionally trained and ready to step in. Professionals: accountants, lawyers, they can sometimes come in depending on the pricing and things like that, depending on the kind of assets. We had an interesting case where we had a tremendous piece of real estate that needed to be developed, it required someone with real estate expertise, development expertise. So all the parties sat around and said well, we’re not sure who’s going to get this, but we do know that we want to sell it and we need someone well qualified to sell it, we can’t just put it in the hands of just anyone. So those are the kind of choices you have.
Alright, we’re going to talk now about discoveries. And that is the next stage before we wind up this podcast today. And that is the process where you make a real strategic call. We’re going to talk about discoveries in mediation, what the best steps are to take and when to take them, and investigate into that sort of, those important timetables. But we’ll save that for our next podcast.
Thanks very much, Suzana.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Thanks to you, too, Ian.
You’ve been listening to Hull on Estate and Succession Planning with Ian Hull and Suzana Popovic-Montag. The podcast you have been listening to has been provided as an information service. It is a summary of current legal issues in estates and estate planning. It is not legal advice and you are reminded to always talk with a legal professional regarding your specific circumstances.
To listen to other Hull On podcasts, or to leave any questions or comments, please visit our website at hullestatemediation.com.