Krista Simon and Morgyn Chandler, partners at Hammerberg Lawyers LLP.
Evolving societal values and wealth transfer impact Estate Litigation in BC
“Inheritance disputes are becoming increasingly common in BC,” says Krista Simon, partner at Hammerberg Lawyers LLP, a Vancouver law firm that specializes in dispute resolution and litigation.
Laws exist to provide protection for beneficiaries and disinherited family members to ensure both fair distribution of an estate and protection from fraud and misconduct by executors and trustees.
Hammerberg’s estate dispute resolution and litigation team assists those who are challenging a will, as well as clients defending an estate against those making a claim.
Bringing a claim
“We often see cases of sibling inequality and inheritance disputes stemming from divorce or re-marriage,” says Simon. “There are many circumstances which give rise to challenging a will, including family estrangement, elder abuse, the changing nature of marriage-like relationships, trustee mishandling of an estate and undue influence. Older adults are particularly vulnerable.
“Our laws and court judgements tend to reflect our changing societal values, as they shift and evolve over time. For instance, we now see changing notions of who should inherit as between sons and daughters, and who is considered a spouse. We advocate for people who would otherwise be unfairly treated by the terms of a will.”
Defending a claim
Morgyn Chandler, partner at Hammerberg Lawyers, says, “The largest inter-generational wealth transfer in Canadian history is taking place. This will have an impact on estate claims, particularly in BC where property values are high.”
According to the January 2018 IPC Private Wealth survey, 58% of affluent Canadian respondents have not discussed instructions for their estate with their heirs, and 12% do not plan to talk about their inheritance plan at all with their beneficiaries. “This leaves the ground fertile for estate disputes,” adds Chandler.
Estate Dispute Resolution Strategies
“Not all estate disputes require an adversarial approach that ends in a trial,” says Simon. “For instance, mediation allows parties to craft resolutions that work best for their family and can help preserve ongoing relationships. Alternative dispute resolution strategies provide a process to achieve a resolution out of court and maintain privacy over sensitive financial matters. Where parties have no desire to reconcile or cannot find a compromise solution, we can still facilitate a resolution in or out of court.”
“One of our firm’s greatest strengths is having both an estate planning division and an estate litigation team under one roof,” adds Chandler. “Our multidisciplinary expertise strengthens our estate services offerings considerably, making Hammerberg a forerunner in B.C.’s estate law field.”
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