Yesterday, I referred to the Ontario Superior Court decision of Rooney Estate v. Stewart Estate (2007), CarswellOnt 6560, which addressed the distinction between the role of the Estate Trustee and the role of the estate solicitor.

One of the responsibilities of the Estate Trustee is to prepare a set of accounts for the approval of the beneficiaries or the court, as may be required.

The decision expands on this requirement. Citing an article prepared by Rodney Hull, Q.C. (“Fundamental Principles and Concepts Relating to Executors and Trustees’ Accounts” (1983), Estates and Trusts Quarterly 146), the duty of an Estate Trustee in keeping accounts is said to include the duty:

1.                  To keep clear and accurate accounts of the estate, rendered at appropriate intervals to the beneficiaries;

2.                  To keep the accounts distinct from other accounts;

3.                  To retain supporting documents for all accounts;

4.                  To produce to any beneficiary the accounts when requested. Income or revenue beneficiaries are entitled to have accounts at reasonable intervals; accounts must be presented to residuary beneficiaries when entitled to possession;

5.                  To make all beneficiaries fully aware of their rights;

6.                  To disclose any and all breaches of trust;

7.                  To allow all beneficiaries adequate time to investigate the accounts;

8.                  To ensure that all beneficiaries have competent, independent advice in reviewing the accounts; and

9.                  To notify all interested beneficiaries of any court audit.

In Rooney, the court held that a release signed by a beneficiary was not a bar to compelling a passing of accounts. The beneficiary was not advised to obtain independent legal advice when reviewing the trustee’s accounts, and the accounts did not disclose that there were double charges for the trustee’s work made against the estate, or that the solicitor charged more for legal and trustee’s services than would arguably be allowed on a quantum meruit basis. As such, there was a breach of one of the obligations associated with keeping accounts. Furthermore, the release was not a fully informed one. Accordingly, it was not enforceable as against the beneficiary.

Thank you for reading.

Paul Trudelle