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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Executor's failure to provide requested information leads to contempt of court

One of the topics I see frequently in the comments and questions left for me by the readers of this blog is that many executors are reluctant to provide information to the beneficiaries. That reluctance varies from simply being slow to respond right through to an executor being hostile and violent. As I've said many times before, I honestly don't know why executors insist on being so secretive and controlling. It always works against them.

I'm posting a link to a story from Ontario lawyers Whaley Estate Litigation in which an executor took this too far. He refused to provide information about estate assets after numerous letters, and a court order to produce it. Eventually the beneficiaries charged him with being in contempt of court. Unbelievably, even then he would not produce the information. Click here to read the story and find out what happened to this executor.

It seems clear that an  awful lot of executors don't really understand what is expected of them when they are put into this role. What they think they know is cobbled together from some internet reading, some anecdotes from friends, their recollection of what happened in a family member's situation, and a large dose of outright guessing. Executors, take the time to find out how to stay out of trouble. Pick up a copy of my latest book, called How Executors Avoid Personal Liability.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Lynne

    My Aunt died 5 days after my father, who was named as sole executor in a holograph will that was hand written and signed by my Aunt, but not dated or witnessed. The holograph will was written years after a will that was drafted by a lawyer, signed, dated and witnessed. We know that holograph will was written after the first will because it had the address of the current city and province that my Aunt was living in, different from the lawyer drafted will. I know that as a holograph will, it would have to be proved as the last will and testament of my Aunt in a court of law.
    The first will named my father, uncle and aunt as executors. When we told my uncle that we found this holograph will in with the original copy of the first will that my father held, the first thing my uncle said was that it was not legal because it wasn't dated and we should just rip it up. We photo copied the holograph will and sent the original along with the will that was drafted by the lawyer that my father held to my uncle by registered mail, believing that he would act in good faith. The lawyer drafted (first) will, distributed my aunt's assets to "the surviving brothers and sisters", the holograph will revoked that, and although it did not specify who the beneficiaries were, it did not exclude anyone, living or deceased. We believe that my uncle did not give the holograph will to the lawyer because we found out that letters were sent out to all the surviving brothers and sisters of my aunt distributing my her assets.
    When we found this out, we emailed the lawyer of the estate a copy of the holograph will that was originally sent to my uncle. I have now received from my uncle's lawyer, a copy of the first will and probates, along with a statement of assets and distribution of those assets. I am now included as a beneficiary, along with my other cousins who's parent pre-deceased their sister, my aunt. I have been asked to sign a release to the executor, my uncle, and I understand this is proper procedure. Can my common law husband witness this form, or is it advisable to get someone else? Also, is this happening now because my mom and I sent the holograph will to the lawyer? What does the law say in such a case? Could my uncle be held liable for withholding information, if this was the case?
    I look forward to hearing from you,
    Another Lynne with an e

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