Monday, June 26, 2006

Executor's Duty in a Wills Variation Act Lawsuit

What role should the executor take in a lawsuit if a spouse, common law spouse, or child of the deceased brings a claim to vary a will in British Columbia on the ground that his or her spouse or parent did not make adequate provision for the claimant? Should the executor oppose the Wills Variation Act claim on the theory that the executor's duty is to uphold the will?

In British Columbia, the executor is required to remain neutral. Mr. Justice Bouck in Quirico v. Pepper (1999-09-03), Courtenay Registry S4550, said at paragraph 15:

The primary duty of an executor is to preserve the assets of the estate, pay the debts and distribute the balance to the beneficiaries entitled under the will, or in accordance with any order made under the Wills Variation Act. An executor should not pick sides between the beneficiaries and use estate funds to finance litigation on their behalf under the Wills Variation Act. It is a matter of indifference to the executor as to how the estate should be divided.

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