Executor Added After Expiration of Wills Variation Limitation

Wills Variation Limitation
Wills Variation Limitation. Under the provisions of section 60 WESA, an action under the wills variation provisions must be commenced within 180 days of the grant of probate or the action is statute barred.
In the 1987 decision Cowan v Cowan 17 BCLR ( 2d) 114, the plaintiff commenced an action (by an endorsed writ that existed then but no longer exists), under what was then known as the Wills Variation act, naming the defendant as a beneficiary but failing to name the executor as required by the rules of court.
The court ordered that the executor may be named as a party, despite the fact that the expiration of the limitation period under the wills variation act had expired, holding that the defect amounted only to an irregularity and not a nullity.
The court added the executor as a proper party to the action pursuant to what was then Rule 15(5) (A) (11) and section 4( (1) (A) of the Limitation act, which required that the new party be connected with the subject matter of the original action.
The court found that there was no prejudice to the executor, since he had in fact been served with the cause of action in his capacity as a beneficiary within the 180 day limitation, and the plaintiff had attempted to add the executor as a party in a timely fashion.
The court held that rule 8 (14) meant that all beneficiaries as well as the executor must be named as parties to the proceeding, and where such an individual as an executor is a party to an action in a representative capacity, that capacity should appear in the style of cause. If it is not, then the writ is a regular Raj Kour v Chan (1958) 27 WWR 191 AT 192.

The plaintiff must show that:

1) the person ought to of the named as a party, or
B) the parties participation in the proceeding is necessary to ensure that all matters in the proceeding may be effectually adjudicated upon ( Ent.. Realty v  Barnes
Lake Cattle  Co. ( 1979) 13 BCLR 293 ( CA).
The court provided the following reasons for concluding that in these particular circumstances that the executor could be added as a party, despite the fact the   180 day limitation period ( then 6 months)  had expired:
20                      (a)     by R. 8(14) he must be a party;

21                  (b) the Wills Variation Act claim was begun within the six-month period;

22                  (c) the executor, while not named, was in fact served with the writ;

23                 (d)        it is clear from the endorsement that the claim is under the Wills Variation Act — not a

personal claim against Mr. Cowan;

24         (e) there can be no prejudice to the defendant/beneficiary or executor in this case. There can be no more difficulty with old witnesses and poor memories than if the executor were named in the original writ;

25                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                (f) the purpose of limitation period under the Wills Variation Act is to enable the executor to distribute funds without fear of a claim being advanced after six months. In this case the beneficiary/executor was served with the writ within six months and there has been no prejudice in that regard;

26                 (g)        the position of executor, in a Wills Variation Act claim, is one of neutrality. He is to

assist the court: Re McCarthy, [1919] N.Z.L.R. 807 (S.C.); Cookv. Webb, [1918] N.Z.L.R. 664. Thus his addition is not prejudicial;

27                 (h)        refusing to add the executor would not be in accordance with R. 2(1), which states that

failure to comply with the rules (R. 8(14)) should be treated as an irregularity not a nullity.

Trevor Todd

Trevor Todd is one of the province’s most esteemed estate litigation lawyers. He has spent more than 40 years helping the disinherited contest wills and transfers – and win. From his Kerrisdale office, which looks more like an eclectic art gallery than a lawyer’s office, Trevor empowers claimants and restores dignity to families across BC. He is a mentor to young entrepreneurs and an art buff who supports starving artists the world over. He has an eye for talent and a heart for giving back.

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