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Saturday, April 11, 2020

Nobody notified me that my Grandpa was ill or that he made a new will. Is that okay?

When someone passes away unexpectedly, it can feel overwhelming to try to find the seemingly endless bits of information you need to figure out what to do next. This is not made any easier by the fact that we as individuals have expectations and wishes that don't necessarily accord with the law. Below is a note I received from a reader, but it contains a few separate questions that I hear pretty often.

"I am my grandfather's only living relative. He named me as his executor 16 years ago upon my gram's death. Last week a lawyer notified me that Grandpa passed away. I wasn't even informed he was sick or dying. Suddenly I have a woman claiming to be executor. Are there not time frames to contact family? Can someone have a second will done without the family being notified? I don't even know where his body is to make appropriate arrangements to put him with my gram."

As I mentioned, the law doesn't necessarily reflect what we expect it to say.

For example, you mention that you expect to make arrangements to put your grandfather's remains with your grandmother's. You expect this because you are the only living relative. The law, though, gives the right to make decisions about disposition of remains to the executor. So this woman who has been named as executor has the right to decide where and how your grandfather's body is dealt with. It would be nice if she would ask your wishes and even nicer if she followed them, but the law does not compel her to do so. Sometimes this leads to a truly painful experience and I hope it can be resolved.

Another question you have is about "time frames for contacting family". Generally speaking, there are no formal systems for notifying family members about things like a person becoming sick. Who would call you if your grandfather were ill? There is nobody required by law to do so. Hospitals don't notify people unless those people are named under a healthcare directive which needs to be used. Certainly it would be thoughtful of a friend to call or email, but that's a social convention, not a law.

Some provinces have rules in place that people who are named as beneficiaries must be notified of their rights under the will within certain time frames. This is an executor's responsibility but does not exist in all provinces. This notice is only for beneficiaries, since not all beneficiaries are family members and not all family members are beneficiaries.

You also asked whether someone can make a new will without the family being notified. Certainly they can. It's nobody else's business when a person wants to make or change a will. I am guessing that you might have asked this question because you suspect the will was done in a way that would raise questions such as whether the executor pressured your grandfather to make a will in her favour. That could be the case, but you cannot assume so based only on the fact that you weren't notified. If this is in fact your concern, you should certainly satisfy your worries by examining the will and by looking into the woman in question.

I can tell this situation is upsetting and painful for you. I realize my note doesn't necessarily give you the answers you want to hear, but I hope it helps to have some information anyway.


  1. Lynne

    That is a Mensa response. (I am envious)


    1. Have you been reading the Mensa Canada blog? :)



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