Getting a Little Help from the Court: Orders for Assistance
Need a little help from the court to move an estate matter along? Then Rule 74.15 is the rule for you!
Found under Rule 74: “Estates – Non-Contentious Proceedings”, Rule 74.15 allows “any person who appears to have a financial interest in an estate” to move for various forms of relief. Often, such a motion is required due to the failure of a party to take a required step. Despite the name of the rule, these matters are often contentious.
Under Rule 74.15, a number of various orders can be sought. These include:
- An Order to accept or refuse an appointment as estate trustee. This can be useful where a person is named as Estate Trustee in a Will, but is not taking any steps to administer the estate. The Order usually provides that if the person does not make an application for a Certificate of Appointment within a certain time, they are deemed to have renounced as Estate Trustee, opening the door to the appointment of an alternate;
- An Order to consent or object to a proposed appointment. If an Order appointing an estate trustee is required, either because there is no estate trustee appointed in the Will, or the person appointed in the Will cannot act, or if there is no Will, then usually the beneficiaries receiving the majority of the estate can consent to the appointment of an estate trustee. If such consent cannot be obtained, then a motion for an Order that the person consent or object can bring the matter to a head;
- An Order requiring the estate trustee to file with the court a statement of the nature and value of the assets of the estate as at the date of death. Can’t get information about the estate from the estate trustee? Then this is the Order you need;
- An Order for further particulars. If you get an Order requiring that the estate trustee file a statement of assets, but are still in the dark, then obtaining this Order will require the estate trustee to provide further particulars;
- An Order requiring a beneficiary who is also a witness to satisfy the court that the beneficiary or the beneficiary’s spouse did not exercise improper or undue influence on the testator. Normally, under s. 12(1) of the Succession Law Reform Act, a bequest to a person who witnesses the Will or that person’s spouse is void. The court, however, can find that the bequest is not void if it is satisfied that the person or spouse did not exercise any improper or undue influence. If an estate cannot proceed because the estate trustees do not know if a certain bequest is void or not, this type of Order can break the log jam, and put the person to the test of disproving improper or undue influence;
- An Order to Pass Accounts. If you want an estate trustee to “show their work”, then an Order requiring the estate trustee to pass their accounts will give you a good look into the estate records.
Although Rule 74.15(2) provides that a motion for an Order for Assistance may be brought without notice, case law has established that notice should be given in most cases. See Noah Weisberg’s blog on that topic, here.
There is also significant case law on who can apply for an Order for Assistance; that is, who “appears to have a financial interest in an estate”. That is a discussion for another day.
Have a great weekend.