Explains Why, If You Feel You Have A Claim Against An Estate, You Should Act Quickly

I would advise that you see lawyer as soon as you think that something is unfair.

He or she can give you advice and say either you are right or you are wrong. A lawyer with a few questions may be able to determine whether there is something to your concerns or not. If you have some type of suspicion or some reason to believe that something is wrong then I would say speak to a lawyer and see if your concerns are well founded or not, and if there is anything in law that can be done then it should get underway quickly. It’s important that you bring your claim early so that the assets are what we call in specie, or mainly in the form they were when the person died. If you wait too long, the estate trustee may have already distributed the assets according to the directions of the will.

Most wills are written to give the estate trustee (executor) discretion to settle claims against the estate if he or she believes it is in the best interests of the estate. However, the estate trustee is not under that obligation even if you are to write them a letter or talk to them and say, “I think that there’s something wrong here.” The obligation is on the person with a potential claim to notify the estate trustee, and to bring legal proceedings against the estate if necessary.

The estate trustee has an obligation to do his or her job in a timely manner, so it is wise to act quickly. Trustees are aware that delay can prejudice the beneficiaries, and though the estate trustee has an obligation to the estate first, he or she also has an obligation to the beneficiaries. The beneficiary is entitled to a legacy and to receiving it in timely manner. For example, a downturn in the stock market may diminish the value of investments that could have been sold earlier with the proceeds distributed; taxes also need to be filed on time or penalties and interest are applied. The estate trustee will keep these issues in mind when doing his or her job. Beneficiaries and creditors also have a right to know what is going on with an estate settlement and can ask for updated reports.

If you are uncertain about whom the trustee is for a will, you can file a document with the court where the deceased person resided immediately before his or her death.

Once this document is filed, you will be notified if someone starts any type of proceeding with respect to the estate of that person.

So if someone does make an application to be an estate trustee whether with or without a will, you will be notified. Then it’s up to you to go down the court to find out what it’s about, and you can start other proceedings if necessary. If you know, for instance, who the trustee is but you’re objecting to that choice, you can file a Notice of Objection even before that person makes an application.

If you, or someone you care about, is dealing with litigation law issues in the Toronto, Ontario Region, contact Steinberg, Morton, Hope & Israel LLP for a consultation.

This article is taken from a January 15, 2010 interview with David A. Brooker, litigation Lawyer with Steinberg Morton, Hope & Israel LLP, a Toronto Litigation Law Firm and is not intended as, nor should be taken to be, legal advice or opinion. Note that laws vary from province to province. Please consult with a lawyer in your own area to be sure of the laws and specific issues in your own jurisdiction.