Unequal Treatment Of Beneficiaries

Often, beneficiaries of a certain type (for example, the children of the will-maker) assume that they will all be treated equally in a will. That doesn't always happen.

Even when a will treats all beneficiaries of a certain type equally (for example, stating that the will-maker's house should be sold and proceeds divided among the children), the distribution of assets may still be unfair. Fairness can be a complicated matter.

Lunny Atmore LLP's lawyers can help you if you are a beneficiary who has been treated unfairly compared to other beneficiaries, or a beneficiary or executor who wishes to defend a will or estate distribution that is being disputed on the grounds of unequal treatment under a will.

What Is Fair?

Some factors that can lead to a dispute about unfairness include:

  • Gifts: There may have been so much given before the will that there is little left to be divided afterwards. For example, if a father paid all of one daughter's debts and gave her a house it may not matter that the will itself splits the bank account equally with the other daughter.
  • Unjust enrichment: If a beneficiary has done work for the will-maker expecting to be compensated, but is not, he or she can claim that the estate was unjustly enriched by that help. For example, a child who took care of a parent for years, saving the parent the expense of hiring a live-in caretaker but expecting compensation in the will, could argue that the estate owes him. Unfortunately, the proof can be difficult and contradictory: one child may claim that he was providing services for a sick elderly parent, but the other children may claim that he was living rent-free with a parent who didn't need the help. Both sides will have to present evidence.
  • Jointly held property: In the past, it was easy for a parent to own a joint bank account (or any other joint property) with a child and then have the child take the entire account after the parent's death. More recently, it has become easier for other beneficiaries to protest this, especially if the only person who contributed to the account was the parent.
    If that's the case, the court may find that the child doesn't own the property, but holds it in trust for the estate, unless there is proof that the deceased meant for the property to be considered a gift.

Contact Lunny Atmore LLP

Call us at 604-259-1678 or fill out our online form to learn more if you feel you have been treated unfairly. We represent families and beneficiaries in Vancouver or surrounding areas of British Columbia.