Executor Must Remain Neutral In Estate Litigation

Estate Litigation

Ketcham v Walton 2012 BCSC 175 involved an application by the executor for directions pursuant to section 86 of the Trustee act for an order authorizing the executor to follow the provisions of the deceased’s  last will to defend any wills variation action and gifts as vigorously as possible, even to the extent of depleting the assets of the estate in the defense and appeal of such attack on the will.

In effect the executor was asking the court for directions on how he should govern himself in the face of the disinherited three adult children’s claim for relief under the wills variation act.

The deceased left his estate to friends and charities, and disinherited his three adult children entirely.

It was a most unusual directive to his executor to fight any contests brought against his will by the children, to the extent of depleting the entire assets of the estate.

The judge in fact had no difficulty in dismissing the executors application, and restated the law that the primary duty of an executor is to preserve the assets of the

estate, pay the debts and distribute the balance of the to the beneficiaries entitled under the will, or, in accordance with any order made under wills variation act.

An executor should not take sides between the beneficiaries or use estate funds to finance litigation on their behalf under the wills variation act.

The law anticipates that the executor will remain impartial between the opposing beneficiaries.


The decision in Quirico v Pepper estate (1999) 22 BCTC 32 was followed, as was Doucette v Doucette Estate 2008 BCSC 506, at paragraph 16 where Justice

Metzger states ” The law requires an executor to remain neutral.

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