It is very common in estate litigation that the form of an asset may change substantially over a period of time.
For example a bank account of cash can be converted into a stock portfolio, which in turn can be used to buy a house that is subsequently sold and put into long-term bonds.
As long as those funds can be identified, they can be traced and accounted for, and where appropriate and ordered by the court, transferred into the name of a rightful heir.
The principals relating to orders for tracing and accounting were articulated by Pitfield J. in Ruwenzori Enterprises Ltd. v. Walji, 2004 BCSC 741 at paras. 240-242 and 245, aff’d 2006 BCCA 448:
1] Neither tracing nor an accounting is a remedy. Each is a process designed to assist in the perfection of a remedy…
2] It follows that tracing is the process employed to identify and particularize the manner in which funds have been applied. The results of the tracing permit a claimant to determine whether it will opt for a proprietary remedy in respect of funds derived from it, or a monetary judgment in respect thereof.
3] An accounting is directed at the determination of profit, gain or loss derived from assets in respect of which tracing has identified a right to, and the claimant has opted to assert, a proprietary interest.
4] Upon termination of any part of the tracing process at their option or otherwise, [the plaintiffs] will be entitled to elect to apply to confirm a proprietary interest in respect of assets other than those in respect of which the election to do so has already been made and by virtue of my reasons granted, or to enter judgment for the amounts I have enumerated and to apply for judgment in respect of any additional funds identified by the tracing process.