Estate Litigation Lawyers in Calgary
It is not uncommon for family disputes to develop over a loved one’s estate. However, estate litigation is quite rare in Calgary.
The majority of issues can be sorted out with discussions around the kitchen table – or with collaboration or mediation by lawyers.
At such emotional times, the intervention of independent professionals can provide much-needed guidance.
However, when issues remain unresolved, estate litigation may result. It is more common when the deceased has failed to take essential estate planning steps, such as preparing a will, naming a personal representative, and setting up trusts for beneficiaries.
If your dispute cannot be resolved by alternative resolution methods, the estate litigation lawyers at Spectrum Family law in Calgary are ready to assist your case.
Typical types of estate disputes in Calgary
Estate disputes in Calgary take many forms. Following are some of the most common types of issues we are requested to intervene in by families…
Not everyone can contest a will or initiate a legal challenge to probate in Alberta. You must have legal standing as well as legal grounds to do so.
Whether you’re unsure if you meet the requirements or you believe you have valid grounds to dispute a will, our estate litigation lawyers can help evaluate your claim and represent you if you decide to proceed with estate litigation.
Disputes against personal representative or “attorneys”
When someone sets up a power of attorney, an individual is named to take care of that person’s financial affairs while they are still alive. This individual is referred to as an “attorney”.
The person nominated in a will to take care of the affairs of the estate is a personal representative or PR. This individual is responsible for locating assets, probating the will, transferring assets to beneficiaries, etc.
Mismanagement, misconduct or intentional misappropriation of funds can be a serious issue in either case.
Typical claims made by family members against an attorney include:
- Undue influence exerted on the donor to gain the power of attorney
- Taking actions that harm the inheritance of a family member (such as selling a property)
- Financial mismanagement or theft
Typical claims against a PR include the following:
- Mismanagement, theft, or misappropriation of assets
- Withholding inheritance
- Poor communication or accounting provided for beneficiaries
- Conflict of interest (PR is also a beneficiary, which is common but can lead to disputes)
Whether you suspect abuse by an attorney or personal representative – or you are accused of it – our estate litigation lawyers can help.
Support claims by/for dependents
Under Alberta’s Estate Administration Act, dependent children of the deceased have a right to be financially supported by the estate.
If adequate provisions have not been made in a will or trust or, in the absence of a will, an administrator does not adequately provide for minors, a legal challenge can be made by a spouse, an adult interdependent partner or a dependent child.
Joint asset disputes
In some cases, assets are jointly owned when one of the partners passes away. This often applies to real estate and businesses.
What happens to such assets can be a point of contention between the surviving partner and the family of the deceased.
Joint owners or partners may challenge the provision of a will or actions taken before a person died. The laws relating to such matters can be complex and legal advice is recommended in most cases.
“Quantum meruit” disputes
“Quantum meruit” disputes occur when an individual makes a claim against the estate of the deceased for unpaid labour.
In these cases, the plaintiff believes that he or she has not been adequately compensated by the estate of the deceased for work performed.
These matters can be highly contentious, requiring substantial proof that payment was due and not paid. The plaintiff must show that services rendered were:
- Not rendered gratuitously
- Delivered under the mutual understanding that payment would be made
A common example is a loved one caring for a sick relative – often for an extended period. The carer may claim compensation but, depending on the circumstances, the court may rule that the services rendered were merely those expected of a close relative and were done gratuitously.
What are the main estate litigation challenges for families in Calgary?
Estate litigation often involves unique challenges that require experienced legal assistance and a deep understanding of the family dynamics at play.
This can be challenging for family members and the lawyers they hire.
Fierce conflicts with strong emotions
Estate disputes are often initiated at a time of grieving for a family, with a loved one recently lost.
Powerful emotions can be at play and this can lead to conflict. Poor choices can be made without the right guidance.
This adds complexity to the situation and it must be handled compassionately but in accordance with the relevant laws in Alberta.
Substantial estates or sentimental assets
Where the estate is of significant size and/or contains sentimental assets, such as family heirlooms, disputes can become more complex.
This can make it challenging to resolve matters by alternative methods to litigation.
Memories and sentiments may be tied up with the assets or people may stand to gain or lose considerable amounts. In such situations, family members can become more emotional and adversarial.
Can we represent your Calgary estate litigation?
Our estate litigation lawyers can represent you on whichever side of the litigation process you are…
To carry out the final wishes of the deceased, the personal representative may, on behalf of the estate, need to defend a lawsuit.
We can help you defend the estate against:
- A claim by someone who feels they should be included as a beneficiary
- A claim by dependents for an increased share of the estate
- Accusations of mismanagement of estate assets
- A contested will
A PR may also need to file a lawsuit against individuals who unlawfully take assets from the estate. We can also assist with that.
If you are a beneficiary of the estate, we can assist with:
- An appeal against the distribution of assets
- A claim for an increased interest in the estate (due to dependency)
- An appeal against the management of estate funds
- Contesting the validity of a will
- Helping to secure specific assets from an estate
A third party
We can also represent a third party in the following:
- Attaining a copy of the will to check beneficiaries
- Disputing the change of a will just before death
- Contesting the validity of a will
- Making a quantum meruit claim
Estate litigation in Calgary
An estate litigation lawyer at Spectrum Family Law in Calgary is ready to listen to your situation and advise you of your options during a free case evaluation.