Suspicious Circumstances

Suspicious Circumstances | Disinherited Estate Litigation

An important aspect of challenging the validity of a will due to lack of testamentary capacity is to look for suspicious circumstances which if found have the effect of shifting the onus of proof from a presumption of mental capacity to the propounder of the will having to prove mental capacity.

In addition to testamentary capacity, the propounder of a will must establish “that the testator knew and approved of the contents thereof.” With regard to this requirement, the Supreme Court of Canada in Lidstone v McWilliams ( 1931) 3 DLR 455 SCC, noted at p. 456-7:

When it has been established that a will has been duly executed by a testator having testamentary capacity, and also established that it was read by, or read over to, the testator before execution, there arises ordinarily, in the absence of suspicious circumstances, a strong presumption that he knew and approved of its contents, but there is no inflexible rule on the subject. If, however, there are circumstances which arouse the suspicions of the Court — as, for example, if the will was prepared by a person who takes a benefit under it – the party propounding the will must remove the suspicion by proving that the testator knew and approved of the contents of the document, and it is only when this has been done that the onus of proving fraud or undue influence is thrown on the opponents of the will.

Mr. Justice Lambert referred to that passage and explained the meaning of the term “suspicious circumstances” in Clark v. Nash (1989), 61 D.L.R. (4th) 409 at 425 (B.C.C.A.):

It is important to recognize that the “suspicious circumstances” referred to in that passage, and in other authorities, are not circumstances that create a general miasma of suspicion that something unsavory may have occurred, but rather circumstances which create a specific and focused suspicion that the testator may not have known and approved of the contents of the will.

The doctrine of suspicious circumstances may arise in circumstances in which the background concerning the making of the will gives rise or should give rise to some suspicion. The doctrine is intended to ensure that there is no doubt that the making of the will was the free and voluntary act of the testator. In dealing with the will, the Supreme Court of Canada in Vout v. Hay 1995 125 D.L.R. (4th) stated that when dealing with the doctrine of suspicious circumstances and the onus of proof, the party alleging undue influence must prove it, and the question becomes which is more persuasive: the evidence calling into question the validity of the will (the suspicious circumstances) or the evidence supporting it.

It is crucial that a will practitioner look for and identify factors which might appear to be suspicious and to ensure that there is ample evidence to override those circumstances as having had an effect on the testator, prior to the execution of the will. Again there should be a detailed record made of the practitioner’s observations, and the notes preserved.


A short list of the innumerable circumstances in which might be suspicious is as follows:

(a) where a gift is made to a person with whom the testator had a close relationship but which was not known or recognized by the testator’s family;

(b) where a gift is made to a person who is in a position to influence the testator, such as a care-giver, or the worst example, the party preparing the will;

(c) where an apparently unwarranted, undeserving, or unpopular gift is made to a beneficiary who, in the minds of the those left behind, should not receive the gift;

(d) where a gift is made to a beneficiary to whom the testator has had no close relationship, such as a charity;

(e) where the division of assets among the children of the testator is substantially unequal, or a certain child or children are harshly treated;

(f) where the will substantially deviates from previous wills;

(g) where a gift is made to a person standing in a fiduciary relationship;

(h) where the beneficiary accompanies the testator on each trip to your office during the process to complete the will;

(i) where you receive the testator’s instructions from someone other than the testator;

(j) Where there has been a recent serious illness or hospitalization;

(k) where there is any question at all about testamentary capacity;

(l) where there are indications of substantial medications that are potentially mind altering, being used;

(m) where there is a hasty or unwise marriage or common-law relationship;

(n) where there is evidence of depression;

(o) where there is a language/cultural disability or illiteracy;

(p) if you have been asked to prepare a will for someone by which you are to inherit, then you should ensure that the testator receives independent legal advice, and preferably take no part whatsoever in the preparation of the will.

In circumstances where the testator has a will and substantial changes are being made, it would be prudent to enquire of the testator as to the provisions of the previous will and the reasons for the changes.

Similarly if a child or children are being disinherited, you should consider preparing a detailed memorandum pursuant to the provisions of the Wills Variation Act ( now S 60 WESA) and enclosing a copy of that signed memorandum with the original will. You should try and insure the accuracy of the information, so that the testator is not subsequently viewed by the court as being vindictive, as opposed to objective.



Will and court order drafters should be aware of the rule in Saunders v. Vautier, (1841) 41 E.R. 482), a decision of the English courts of equity from 1841.

The rule occasionally comes to my attention when a will attempts to make a bequest to a mentally capable adult over the age of majority to take effect at a much later date (such as age 50), but the will drafter fails to provide for a “gift over” to an alternate beneficiary in the event that the beneficiary does not live to the later age and can take the bequest outright.

In such a drafting event, the adult beneficiary is able to apply to the court invoking the Saunders v. Vautier rule to collapse the trust provisions and take the bequest at the time of the deceased’s death without having to attain the later stipulated age.

A typical example is where a beneficiary (such as a grandchild) is a capable adult of sound mind and the will bequests that $50,000 be payable to the beneficiary on his 25th birthday, the income to be payable to him annually until he attains that age.  In this event, since there is no gift over to another beneficiary if the beneficiary does not attain the age of 25, upon attaining the age of majority (being 19 in British Columbia), the said beneficiary can call for the capital and any income withheld during his minority to be paid forthwith.

The result would be different if the will stated that the trustee was to set aside $50,000 for each grandchild who is under 25 when the testator dies, and that if a grandchild died before attaining age 25 leaving children surviving him, then those children (being great-grandchildren of the testator) would take the deceased grandchild’s share.  In that the interests of the great-grandchildren need to be considered, and the Saunders v. Vautier rule will not apply as there was a gift over to the great-grandchildren in the event the grandchild did not reach age 25.

The leading Canadian case is the Supreme Court of Canada decision of Baschau v. Rogers Communications Inc., 2006 SCC 28, which stated at paragraph 21:

The common law rule in Saunders v. Vautier can be concisely stated as allowing beneficiaries of a trust to depart from the settlor’s original intentions, provided that they are of full legal capacity and are together entitled to all the rights of beneficial ownership in the trust property.  More formally, the rule is stated as follows in Underhill and Hayton: Law of Trusts and Trustees (14th edition, 1987), at paragraph 628:

If there is only one beneficiary, or if there are several beneficiaries, whether entitled concurrently or successively, and they are all of one mind, and he or they are not under any disability, the specific performance of the trust may be arrested, and the trust modified or extinguished by him or them, without reference to the wishes of the settlor or trustees.

Vested or Contingent Gift? 

An analysis as to whether the rule in Saunders v. Vautier applies or not requires an examination of the difference between a vested and a contingent interest.

In Campbell Estate, 2005 BCSC 1561 at paragraph 13 stated:

A contingent interest is one that is subject to the happening of an event that may never occur.  A vested interest, on the other hand, is one the enjoyment of which is merely postponed, though it may be subject to subsequent divestment. . . . In other words, if the gift is subject to a condition precedent, then it is contingent; if it is subject to a condition subsequent (which will cause the interest to be divested if the condition is met) it is vested subject to divestment.

There is a presumption in law of early vesting and to avoid an intestacy if possible. (Fargey v Fargey Estate, 2015 BCSC 721).

Saunders . Vautier Applied

Saunders v Vautier was applied in Grieg v National Trust, (1998) 20 ETR (2d) 309, where the petitioner was involved in an accident as an infant, who later applied to the court to determine the trust set out in the court-ordered settlement of her lawsuit after she attained the age of majority.

The terms of the court-ordered trust were that the corporate trustee was directed to invest the trust fund and to pay out such amounts from the income and capital of the fund as required by the petitioner during her infancy.

After the petitioner became 19 years of age, the trustee was directed to pay the petitioner the income from the trust until she became 25 years of age, at which time one-half of the capital and any accumulated income was to be paid to her. The balance of the trust was to remain invested until she became 30 years of age, after which time she should be paid the total standing to her credit.

The court held that even though the trust was settled by way of a court order, the rule in Saunders v. Vautier still applied since the beneficiary was of full capacity, and there being no gift over, the beneficiary had the full beneficial interest, both as to payments during her lifetime and throughout the control of the reversionary interest.

As such, the petitioner had the right to determine the trust and receive the sum held for her on her behalf.  The court varied the trust to pay the petitioner the entire sum upon her attaining age 19.

Saunders v Vautier Not Applied 

Saunders v. Vautier was held not to apply in Little v Salterio 14 Sask. R. 18, where a father’s will directed his trustee to pay the net income from the residue of his estate to his daughter until she attained the age of 45 years, at which time he directed that the capital of the residue be paid to her absolutely.

The will further provided that in the event that his daughter died before attaining the age of 45 years, then the income was to be used for the benefit of his granddaughter until she attaining the age of 25, at which time he directed that the capital be paid to her absolutely.

The testator died when the daughter was 35 years of age and the granddaughter age 10. The daughter applied to the court for an order immediately vesting the residue of the estate.

Her application was refused on the basis that her bequest had not vested and was contingent upon her attaining the age of 45 years, and that the gift over to the granddaughter prevented the vesting of the trust property until she did actually attain the age of 45 years.

Since the gift of capital to the daughter was consequently not vested absolutely, but was contingent upon her attaining the age of 45 years, she was not entitled to collapse the trust.

The application was opposed by the Official Guardian of Saskatchewan, who relied upon the decision Berwick v Canada Trust Co. (1948) SCR 151 for the proposition that where there are no words of immediate gift, the gift is not vested absolutely and therefore immediate payment will not be ordered under the rule in Saunders v. Vautier.

The Berwick decision of the Supreme Court of Canada was itself an application under Saunders v. Vautier that was dismissed by the court.

In Berwick a trust created by the will of the testator provided that income be paid to his son for 10 years and that the capital be paid at the expiration of the 10 years.  The will further provided that the son’s share was to be given to the son’s estate in the event that the son predeceased the testator or died before the expiration of the 10-year period.

The son applied for the capital before the expiration of the 10 years but the court dismissed his application since there was a gift over to the son’s estate and the bequest to the son was contingent upon the expiration of 10 years.


Will drafters are often asked by testators to delay a bequest to a beneficiary until a much later date than the age of 19, which in itself is achievable if the will is drafted correctly-that is, by providing for a “gift over” to an alternate beneficiary to provide for the event that the  first beneficiary may die before reaching the age of entitlement to the full bequest. Unless the will drafter is aware of the rule in Saunders v. Vautier there may be a failure to provide for a gift over, which will entitle a mentally capable beneficiary who reaches the age of 19 to apply to collapse the trust and take the bequest absolutely without having to await attaining the stipulated later age set out in the will.

Conflict of Law: “Ordinarily Resident”

Conflict of Law: "Ordinarily Resident"

Cresswell v Cresswell Estate 2017 BCSC 178 dealt with a conflict of law situation and held that the jurisdiction of the BC court should be denied for a wills variation action and held that it should properly be filed under Alberta court jurisdiction as the deceased was found to be “ordinarily resident ” there.

The plaintiff was the surviving spouse who after marrying the deceased in Alberta in 1994 lived together there until buying a house in BC in 2014 that was registered in joint tenancy and which went to the surviving plaintiff after her death.

The deceased returned to Alberta in 2015 for cancer treatments and to live with family and remained there until her death in late 2016.

Her will provided that it would be interpreted as per the laws of Alberta.

Her will left everything to her three children who were all Alberta residents.

The court interpreted the Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings Transfer act and held that the deceased had a settled intention to ordinarily reside in Alberta when she moved there in November 2015, and that at the time of her death she had no real or substantial connection to BC.

The Court determined that Alberta was the proper jurisdiction for the case having regard to the interests of the parties and the ends justice, and declined to exercise BC jurisdiction in favour of Alberta.

Section 10(b) of the Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings Transfer Act, S.B.C. 2003 c. 28 states as follows:

10  Without limiting the right of the plaintiff to prove other circumstances that constitute a real and substantial connection between British Columbia and the facts on which a proceeding is based, a real and substantial connection between British Columbia and those facts is presumed to exist if the proceeding

(b)  concerns the administration of the estate of a deceased person in relation to

(i)  immovable property in British Columbia of the deceased person, or

(ii)  movable property anywhere of the deceased person if at the time of death he or she was ordinarily resident in British Columbia

Section 11(1) states:

11  (1) After considering the interests of the parties to a proceeding and the ends of justice, a court may decline to exercise its territorial competence in the proceeding on the ground that a court of another state is a more appropriate forum in which to hear the proceeding.

(2)  A court, in deciding the question of whether it or a court outside British Columbia is the more appropriate forum in which to hear a proceeding, must consider the circumstances relevant to the proceeding, including

(a)  the comparative convenience and expense for the parties to the proceeding and for their witnesses, in litigating in the court or in any alternative forum,

(b)  the law to be applied to issues in the proceeding,

(c)  the desirability of avoiding multiplicity of legal proceedings,

(d)  the desirability of avoiding conflicting decisions in different courts,

(e)  the enforcement of an eventual judgment, and

(f)  the fair and efficient working of the Canadian legal system as a whole.

The term “ordinarily resident” has been interpreted by the Court in Blazek v. Blazek, 2009 BCSC 1693, at paras. 31-35:

[31]      Section 3 of the Act provides that the court has territorial competence in a proceeding if the person is “ordinarily resident in British Columbia at the time of the commencement of the proceedings.” Although the evidence is somewhat conflicting, it appears that at the time this action was commenced in 2007, the defendant split his time between the Czech Republic and Kelowna, British Columbia. There is a dispute between the parties regarding whether the amount of time the defendant spent in British Columbia was more or less than 150 days.

[32]      The meaning of “ordinarily resident” has been considered by the courts on many occasions. The authority often referred to is Thomson v. Minister of National Revenue, [1946] S.C.R. 209, [1946] C.T.C. 51, where Mr. Justice Estey stated:

A reference to the dictionary and judicial comments upon the meaning of these terms indicates that one is “ordinarily resident” in the place where in the settled routine of his life he regularly, normally or customarily lives. One “sojourns” at a place where he unusually, casually or intermittently visits or stays. In the former the element of permanence; in the latter that of the temporary predominates. The difference cannot be stated in precise and definite terms, but each case must be determined after all of the relevant factors are taken into consideration, but the foregoing indicates in a general way the essential difference. It is not the length of the visit or stay that determines the question. …

It is well established that a person may have more than one residence…

[33]      I am satisfied that the defendant resided in both places in 2007. I agree with the plaintiff’s position that “ordinarily resident” should be given a broad and liberal interpretation, in accordance with the provisions of the Act regarding corporations ordinarily resident in the province; “ordinarily resident” does not require a counting of days in which a party may spend in this jurisdiction. One can be ordinarily resident in more than one jurisdiction.

[34]      I am satisfied that the defendant was ordinarily resident in British Columbia. He was served with the writ of summons and statement of claim in this action at the Kelowna address and he was a director and officer of a company which listed the Kelowna address as the defendant’s address at the time the action was commenced. Further, the defendant files his income tax in Canada and receives a pension in Canada.

[35]      On this test, the court has territorial competence to hear the matter.

[27]         I am satisfied that the deceased had a settled intention to ordinarily reside in Alberta when she moved there on November 14, 2015 and took up residence at her sister’s home. It is clear from the evidence that she intended to remain in Alberta to be around her family and although some of her comments that were transcribed by the plaintiff are inconsistent where she said, on November 19, 2015:  “[t]hat’s sad hopefully I will be back there in a few months”, referring to Westbank, and on January 14, 2016: “One last thing I love you please remember that”. Those comments must be taken in context to her impending death. It is clear that she was applying for Alberta medical coverage, she changed her mailing address on her Edmonton Royal Bank chequing account to that of her sister, she had a will drawn up in Edmonton to be governed by the laws in Alberta, and it is clear from the telephone messages that she wished to sell the home in Westbank. Her contacting a lawyer and attempting to commence divorce proceedings shows her intention to separate from the plaintiff as was the January 9, 2016 text:  “You said you were here for me and you are a liar. I want you out.”

[28]         I am satisfied, based on all the evidence, that at the time of her death, the deceased was ordinarily resident in Alberta.

[29]         I am also satisfied that at the time of her death she did not have any real and substantial connections to British Columbia (s. 10 of the Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings Transfer Act).

[30]         The defendants also say that this court should decline to exercise its territorial competence in accordance with s. 11 of the Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings Transfer Act.

[31]         Section 11(1) states:

11  (1) After considering the interests of the parties to a proceeding and the ends of justice, a court may decline to exercise its territorial competence in the proceeding on the ground that a court of another state is a more appropriate forum in which to hear the proceeding.

(2)  A court, in deciding the question of whether it or a court outside British Columbia is the more appropriate forum in which to hear a proceeding, must consider the circumstances relevant to the proceeding, including

(a)  the comparative convenience and expense for the parties to the proceeding and for their witnesses, in litigating in the court or in any alternative forum,

(b)  the law to be applied to issues in the proceeding,

(c)  the desirability of avoiding multiplicity of legal proceedings,

(d)  the desirability of avoiding conflicting decisions in different courts,

(e)  the enforcement of an eventual judgment, and

(f)  the fair and efficient working of the Canadian legal system as a whole.

[32]         Here, I am satisfied that the evidence is overwhelming, that all of the defendants and all the evidence concerning the execution of the will, and deceased’s assets, are in Alberta, as are the witnesses. I am satisfied after considering the interests of the parties to this proceeding and the ends of justice that this court should decline to exercise its territorial competence as Alberta is the more appropriate forum in which to hear these proceedings.

Anti-Ademption Under S 48 WESA

Anti-Ademption Under S 48 WESA

Forbes v Millard Estate 2017 BCSC 361 discusses and gives effect to S. 48 WESA , known as the anti-ademption provision, when property is disposed of by a nominee such as a power of attorney prior to death that under common law the bequest would have failed.

In McDougald Estate v. Gooderham (2005), 255 D.L.R. (4th) 435, 17 E.T.R. (3d) 36 (Ont. C.A.) [McDougald Estate], the Ontario Court of Appeal explained the concept of ademption: ” [1] Wills often contain bequests, which are directions that specific items of property are to be given to named recipients upon the testator’s death.  Sometimes the specified item cannot be found among the testator’s assets at the time of death.  This can happen because the item is lost, destroyed, sold or given away before the testator dies.  At common law, in such a situation, the bequest is held to have adeemed and the gift fails.  If there are proceeds from the disposition of the item of property, the proceeds fall into residue and are distributed accordingly.  The proceeds are not given to the named beneficiary.”

Section 48 WESA was enacted to deal with ademption and applies to a will, whenever it was executed, if the will maker dies on or after March 31, 2014 when WESA came into effect.

S. 48 WESA states:

48 (1) In this section, “proceeds” means the gross proceeds at the time of disposition, and includes

(a) non-monetary consideration, and

(b) in the case of a gift, the fair market value of the gift.

(2) If property that is the subject of a gift in a will is disposed of by a nominee, the beneficiary of the gift is entitled to receive from the will-maker’s estate an amount equivalent to the proceeds of the gift as if the will had contained a specific gift to the beneficiary of that amount.

(3) Subsection (2) does not apply if

(a) the disposition is made to carry out instructions given by the will-maker at a time when the will-maker was legally capable of giving instructions, or

(b) a contrary intention appears in the will.


The deceased executed a will in September 2000 where she left her daughter “any property which I may own and be using as a home at the date of my death”.
The deceased became mentally incompetent and five years later, her attorneys appointed under an enduring power of attorney sold her only property for $185,000″
The deceased died In February 2015.
Accordingly, the deceased did not own property at the time of her death, and that common-law such a bequest would have adeemed since it no longer existed.
The petitioner successfully argued that because the property was sold by a nominee, namely an attorney under a power of attorney, S 48 ( 2) of WESA applied and that her daughter  should accordingly  receive the sale proceeds of the property, just as if the will had contained a specific gift of the proceeds of the sale.
The court also relied on S.  186, of WESA stating that the transitional provisions of WESA contained in Section 4 applied to a will, whenever executed, if the will maker dies on or after the date of March 31, 2014 which was the case.
The court concluded that S 48 is not retrospective in its general nature and that it did not operate retrospectively in this particular case.
Moreover, even if section 48 is retrospective in nature it does not interfere with vested rights. There were no vested rights in this fact pattern because the respondent’s rights were only vested on the death of the deceased.
The deceased had expressed clear intentions in her will as to the reasons that she wished her daughter  to receive the bequest of the property, and it was only because she was incapable that the attorneys sold the property after she went into a rest home.
To fail to give effect to the anti-ademption provision in such circumstances would in the courts view inappropriately frustrate the deceased’s clear intentions.

Wills Variation: Disinherited Adult Children vs. Second Spouse

Wills Variation: Court Criteria Between Disinherited Adult Children and Second Spouses

R. (J.) v M. (JD) 2016 BCSC 2265 summarized the court criteria will consider when deciding the competing moral claim of a disinherited  adult independent child  and a second spouse who inherited  the entire estate.

The adult child had been disinherited and had been estranged from her deceased father due to the actions of the father throughout the plaintiff’s life, which included sexual and emotional abuse, as well as a lack of financial or emotional support in her formative years.
There was no explanation for the disinheritance of the adult child in the will or any memorandum to the will.
The second spouse of eight years marriage received assets worth $1 million outside of the will and a lifetime pension of $36,360 per year.
The second spouse was also the residual beneficiary of an estate worth $775,000.
The court varied the will to give the adult child, a bequest of $250,000.
The court set out the criteria to be considered when both considering the moral obligation owed to an adult child as well is the criteria to be considered when dealing with a second spouse.


[82]         Tataryn v. Tataryn Estate, [1994] 2 S.C.R. 807, is the governing authority in British Columbia on the WVA. McLachlin J., as she then was, writing for the Court, articulated the relevant considerations and principles that animate the application of the WVA. The fundamental approach is anchored in her observation that “[t]he search is for contemporary justice”: Tataryn, at 815. The courts must read the WVA “in light of modern values and expectations” and “are not necessarily bound by the views and awards made in earlier times”: Tataryn, at 814-815.

[83]         The Court in Tataryn stated that the determination of whether a will makes adequate provision and, if not, what provision would be adequate, just and equitable, are “two sides of the same coin”: Tataryn, at 814.

[84]         The primary statutory objective of the WVA is the adequate, just, and equitable provision for a testator’s spouse and children. As identified in Tataryn, the other protected interest is testamentary autonomy. However, testamentary freedom must yield to the extent required to achieve adequate, just, and equitable provision for the applicant spouse and/or children. In that sense and to that degree only, testamentary autonomy will be curtailed by the application of the WVA: McBride v. Voth, 2010 BCSC 443 at para. 125. The Court of Appeal in Chan v. Lee (Estate), 2004 BCCA 644 at para. 43 affirmed that courts should not approach the WVA as a means “to right all the perceived wrongs of the past” or “to improve upon the degree of fairness of a will” if the testator has met his obligations under the WVA.

[85]         In addressing the adequacy of the testamentary provision, Madam Justice McLachlin clarified that the question of whether a testator has acted as a judicious parent or spouse is measured by an objective standard, assessed in light of current societal legal norms and moral norms. As outlined in Tataryn, legal norms are the obligations that the law would impose upon the testator during his or her life if the question of provision for a claimant’s spouse or child were to arise. A testator’s moral duties are grounded in “society’s reasonable expectations of what a judicious person would do in the circumstances, by reference to contemporary community standards”: Tataryn, at 820-821.

[86]         The concept of adequate provision is a flexible notion which turns on the particular circumstances of the case: Dunsdon v. Dunsdon, 2012 BCSC 1274, at para. 131. Tataryn expressly acknowledged that moral duties are more susceptible to being viewed differently by different people because there is no clear legal standard by which to judge such duties: Tataryn, at 822. However, the analysis in Tataryn underscores that the court must apply an approach that accords with a contemporary view of marital and parental obligations.

[87]         The Court in Tataryn recognized that the foregoing assessment necessarily involved the balancing of competing claims, and held that where the size of the estate permits, all moral and legal claims should be satisfied. Where prioritization is necessary, generally, claims that would have been recognized as legal obligations during a testator’s lifetime take precedence over moral claims. The court must also weigh the competing moral claims and assign each its priority according to their relative strength: Tataryn, at 823. The Court recognized that such an analysis would produce a range of options for the distribution of assets which might be considered appropriate in the circumstances. The court should only make an order to vary a will where the testator’s chosen distribution falls outside of this range.

[88]         The jurisprudence also establishes that in determining whether the will-maker has fulfilled his or her obligations, the court may consider gifts made outside the will. If a will-maker has made inter vivos gifts to individuals other than the claimant or has arranged his affairs to facilitate a passing of assets to such individuals outside the framework of the will, the moral duty to a claimant may be intensified: Wong v. Soo, 2015 BCSC 1741. Conversely and depending on the circumstances, a will-maker’s moral duty may be diminished or negated entirely where he or she has made gifts to a claimant either before death or in consequence of it: Dundson at para. 185; Doucette at para. 84.

[89]         The legislated scheme of intestate succession does not serve as a guidepost in determining whether adequate provision has been made under the WVA: Wilson at para. 379; Hall v. Korejwo, 2011 BCCA 355 at para. 46.

[90]         In reference to the moral claim of independent adult children, the Court in Tataryn observed that while they “may be more tenuous” than that of a spouse or dependent child, some provision for adult independent children should be made if the size of the estate permits and in the absence of circumstances that would negate the existence of such an obligation: Tataryn, at 822-823.

[91]         In Dunsdon Madam Justice Ballance conveniently summarized the considerations that inform the existence and strength of a testator’s moral duty to independent children:


  • relationship between the testator and claimant, including abandonment, neglect and estrangement by one or the other;
  • size of the estate;
  • contributions by the claimant;
  • reasonably held expectations of the claimant;
  • standard of living of the testator and claimant;
  • gifts and benefits made by the testator outside the will;
  • testator’s reasons for disinheriting;
  • financial need and other personal circumstances, including disability, of the claimant;
  • misconduct or poor character of the claimant;
  • competing claimants and other beneficiaries:

(See Clucas v. Clucas Estate, [1999] B.C.J. No. 436; McBride v. McBride Estate, 2010 BCSC 443; Yee v. Yu, 2010 BCSC 1464; Wilson v. Lougheed, 2010 BCSC 1868)

[92]         In assessing the strength of the legal and moral obligations owed by a testator to a second spouse, the court will consider factors such as:

(a)            The length of the marriage;

(b)            When and how the testator’s assets were acquired;

(c)            The contribution of the second spouse;

(d)            How family assets would be divided under the applicable family legislation upon marriage breakdown;

(e)            Competing obligations with the children from the first marriage;

(f)              Financial circumstances of the spouse;

(g)            The size of the estate; and

(h)            The magnitude of assets passing to the spouse outside of the estate in consequence of other pre-death transactions undertaken by the testator.

[See Wong v. Soo, 2015 BCSC 1741 at paras. 73-82; Saugestad v. Saugestad, 2006 BCSC 1839, varied on different grounds 2008 BCCA 38; Mawdsley v. Meshen, 2010 BCSC 1099, affirmed 2012 BCCA 91; Ciarniello v. James 2016 BCSC 1699]

Will In “Contemplation of Marriage” Not Revoked

Will In "Contemplation of Marriage" Not Revoked

Pace Estate 2016 BCSC 2306 held that a 2001 will left to “my common law spouse  of four years ” was not revoked by their subsequent marriage under what was then S 15 Wills Act that provided that marriage revoked a will. The parties married over a year  after the execution of the will.

The will did not expressly state that the will was being signed in ” contemplation ” of their marriage.

The parties signed mirror wills at the time leaving the residue of each of their estates to the other.

The parties separated a few years later and divorced in 2009. The effect of S. 16 of the Wills act invalidated the appointment of that spouse as executrix and as the recipient of the residue of his estate when he subsequently died in 2015. In fact he had been living with another spouse for about 2 years prior to his death and there was a dispute as to whether she was his spouse.

Since the introduction of WESA on March 31, 2014 marriage no longer does revoke a previous will.

It is not clear why the first spouse sought an order that the 2002 will had not been revoked by their subsequent marriage, but in any event the court held that it had not been revoked.

Extrinsic evidence was allowed and indicated to the court that the deceased clearly intended his will to be made in contemplation of his marriage even though it did not expressly state so.

The court followed the reasoning of the Court of Appeal in MacLean estate v Christianson 2010 BCCA 374 at paras 30-31 where the court held that it had the right to ascertain all the facts that were known to the testator at the time the will was signed so as to determine the intention.

They had arranged their affairs so that they were the named beneficiaries of each others pensions and insurance.

The court further held that the will could not have been rectified under the provisions of  59 WESA  as his death occurred after the coming into force of WESA  and new statutes are presumed to not have retrospective application where such statutes affect the substantive  rights of others R. Dineley ( 2012) SCJ #58.

The court declared to have held other wise would have frustrated the clear intent of the parties and have run afoul of the presumption against an interpretation that resulted in an intestacy.

The court held that under S 18 of the Wills act the will had been “revived” by showing a contrary intention  that the will had not been revoked by the  subsequent marriage.

Statute Barred Debt to Estate Deducted From Beneficiary

Statute Barred Debt to Estate Deducted From Beneficiary

Re Johnston Estate 2017 BCSC 272 upheld the rule in Cherry v. Boultbee  which provides that where a legatee of a share of the residue is a debtor of the estate, he or she is not entitled to receive his or her legacy without bringing his or her debt into account, even though the debt owed by the beneficiary in that case was 43 years old and was statute barred.

The rule derives from the case of Cherry v. Boultbee (1839), 4 My. & Cr. 442. It is an equitable principle designed to ensure fairness.

The purpose of the rule was to prevent a beneficiary who owed money to an estate from receiving more than his or her fair share of the estate.

In the case of Re: Akerman, Akerman v. Akerman, [1891] 3 Ch. 212, Kekewich J. stated:

A person who owes an estate money, that is to say, who is bound to increase the general mass of the estate by contribution of his own, cannot claim an aliquot share given to him out of that mass without first making the contribution which completes it. Nothing is in truth retained by the representative of the estate; nothing is in strict language set off; but the contributor is paid by holding in his own hand a part of the mass, which, if the mass were completed, he would receive back.

29      The rule has been held to apply even where the debt is statute-barred: see Re: Akerman.

30      The applicant submits that the rule continues to apply in Canada and relies on the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Canada Trust Company v. Lloyd et al, [1968] S.C.R. 300.

In that case, the Supreme Court applied the rule in Cherry v. Boultbee in finding that the contribution of three directors who had improperly withdrawn funds from the company some 43 years earlier, had to be taken into account in the distribution of the residue by the receiver. The court noted that the situation was analogous to that of a “legatee who must bring into account even a statute barred debt before he can claim a legacy left to him in the testator’s will”.

31      The applicant also relies on a more recent decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal, Olympia & York Developments Ltd. v. Royal Trust Co. (1993), 103 D.L.R. (4th) 129, where the court confirmed that the rule in Cherry v. Boultbee has been accepted in Canadian decisions and, where appropriate, applied.

The rule in Cherry v. Boultbee does not confer on the estate any right to recoup the amount owing but rather operates to ensure fairness in the distribution of an estate, recognizing that the relationship between a testator and his or her beneficiaries is typically not at arm’s length. The fundamental purpose of the rule is to ensure that beneficiaries are treated fairly and it embodies the principal that he who seeks equity must do equity. As the court noted in Re: Akerman, nothing is being retained by the representative and nothing is being set off but rather, the contributor is paid by what he is holding in his own hand.

The court in Re: Goy & Co Ltd., [1900] 2 Ch. 149, also noted that the claimant has in his own hands that which is applicable to the payment and should pay himself out of that. The question of whether the testator or the estate can recover the debt or whether the debt is statute barred is therefore largely irrelevant to the application of the rule. In my view, the change in approach to limitation provisions by the Supreme Court of Canada in Tolofson does not affect the application of the rule in Cherry v. Boultbee.

37      The decision of the Yukon Territory Court of Appeal in Leeper Estate makes it clear that the rule in Cherry v. Boultbee continues to apply in Canada.

39      The Estate of William Leonide Johnston is, however, entitled to retain and deduct from the share of the estate otherwise payable to the respondent an amount on account of the debt owed to the Estate of William Johnston by the respondent that was outstanding and owing on his death.

The Duty of Care Owed By a Will Drafter

The Duty of Care Owed By a Will Drafter

In Korpiel v Sanguinetti (1999) B.C.J. 1048 the court concluded that a will drafter, usually a solicitor or notary, owes no duty of care to beneficiaries beyond the competent and timely fulfillment of the testator’s testamentary instructions.

In the Sanguinetti case, the court considered whether a will drafter owed a duty to beneficiaries who had been named in a client’s former will.  The plaintiffs were relatives of an elderly testator who had instructed his lawyer to prepare a will bequeathing his home to the plaintiffs.  Some years later, the testator changed his mind and instructed the lawyer to draft a new will, leaving the plaintiffs only a small bequest.

The plaintiffs challenged the later will and brought a court action against the lawyer who drafted it for a breach of fiduciary duty owed to them.  Their claim was dismissed.

The court held that if a will drafter were to conduct him- or herself as proposed by the plaintiffs—that is, to refuse to follow the client’s instructions in preference to the interests the potential beneficiaries—it would be impossible for the will drafter to avoid a conflict of duty and interest.  If the will drafter were to be held to advocate for inclusion of persons or terms of disposition that were contrary to the specific instructions of the client, it would clearly result in a conflict with the will drafter’s primary duty to his or her client.  The court found such a situation would be untenable.

Thus a will drafter cannot owe an independent fiduciary duty to the beneficiary of a will, for if the testator’s instructions were to conflict with the beneficiaries’ interests, the will drafter would be unable to avoid conflicting duties to both parties.

In Smolinski v. Mitchell [1995] 10 W.W.R. 68 (BCSC), Sigurdson J. considered the question of the duty of a solicitor to his client, in contrast to the duty to others who may be deprived of an inheritance by reason of a solicitor’s failure to properly carry out his client’s instructions.  His Lordship quoted from the English decision of Ross v. Caunters [1979] 3 All E.R. 580, [1980] Ch. D. 297 at 322:

“The argument seems to me to confuse duties which differ in their nature. In broad terms, a solicitor’s duty to his client is to do for him all that he properly can, with, of course, proper care and attention.  Subject to giving due weight to the adverb “properly,” that duty is a paramount duty.  The solicitor owes no such duty to those who are not his clients.  He is no guardian of their interests.  What he does for his client may be hostile and injurious to their interests; and sometimes the greater the injuries the better he will have served his client.  The duty owed by a solicitor to a third party is entirely different.  There is no trace of a wide and general duty to do all that properly can be done for him.  Instead, in a case such as the present, there is merely a duty, owed to him as well as the client, to use proper care in carrying out the client’s instructions for conferring the benefit on the third party.”

The Alberta Court of Appeal in Graham v. Bonnycastle, 2004 ABCA 270 (leave to appeal to the S.C.C. refused, [2004] S.C.C.A. No. 489) came to a similar conclusion after an extensive review of the law.

In the Graham case the children of the testator had been equal beneficiaries under a 1984 will.  In 1994, after having been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, the testator executed a new will, leaving a small bequest to each of his children and grandchildren and the residue to his new wife.  After the testator’s death the children commenced litigation challenging both the validity of the marriage and the 1994 will on the basis of lack of mental capacity, which any beneficiary is entitled to do.

Both of those actions were discontinued and a settlement agreement was entered into by the parties.  The children subsequently commenced an action against the solicitor who prepared the 1994 will claiming damages for the difference between the bequest they would have received under the original will and the benefits they received pursuant to the settlement agreement.

The Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the trial judge and dismissed the children’s claims on the grounds that the solicitor owed no duty of care to the children who claimed as beneficiaries under the original will, and that the original will had been revoked by both the subsequent will and the subsequent marriage of the testator.  (Note:  In British Columbia, prior to the enactment of the Wills, Estates and Succession Act on March 31, 2014, a subsequent marriage revoked an existing will but that is no longer the case.)

The court made it clear, however, that by extension of the principles set out in Hedley Byrne & Co. Ltd. v. Heller & Partners Ltd. [1963] 2 All E.R. 575, a leading House of Lords decision, a will drafter may be liable to an intended beneficiary who, as a result of the will drafter’s negligence, does not receive a benefit which the testator intended to grant.

Thus the general rule that a will drafter owes a duty of care only to his or her client and not to any third party, has been modified to include a duty to an intended beneficiary under a will who does not, as result of the will drafter’s negligence, receive a benefit which the testator intended to grant.  This has been labelled the “third-party beneficiary rule”.

The leading case is the House of Lords decision in White v. Jones [1995] 1 All E.R. 691 at 698-99 in which the court found a testator’s solicitor liable to an intended beneficiary for negligently failing to have the testator’s new will prepared and executed before the testator died.

Thus the only duty of care owed to an identified third-party beneficiary is where the will drafter owes a duty to the third-party beneficiary as well as the client, to use proper care and diligence in carrying out the client’s instructions for conferring the benefit on the third party.

In the Graham case the Alberta Court of Appeal held that the will drafter’s primary duty was to carry out the intentions of the testator, after being satisfied that the testator had testamentary capacity and recording his or her observations in that regard, so that the testator’s will would subsequently be admitted to probate.

The will drafter’s duty to ensure testamentary capacity coincides with the duty to ensure that the will accurately reflects the testator’s wishes.  A will drafter could never owe an intended beneficiary a duty of care that is inconsistent with his or her duty to the client. (Hall v. Bennett Estate (2003), 227 D.L.R. (4th) 263 (ONCA).

The imposition of a duty to beneficiaries under a previous will would create inevitable conflicts of interest for a will drafter that would be contrary to public policy.  A will-drafting solicitor or notary cannot have a duty to follow the instructions of his or her client to prepare a new will and, at the same time, have a duty to beneficiaries under previous wills whose interests are likely to be affected by the new will.

The BC Court of Appeal decision of Johnston v. Johnston Estate 2017 BCCA 59 followed the reasoning of both the Graham and Sanguinetti decisions in disallowing the claims of children who inherited under their father’s 2007 will that was modified against their interests by a 2012 will and a codicil thereto.

The testator’s children had been heirs under the 2007 will but were disinherited under the subsequent will, in which the testator left his entire estate to his new wife.

At trial the court struck out that portion of the plaintiff’s claim that alleged that the drafting lawyer owed the children a duty of care as beneficiaries under the 2007 will to, in effect, not carry out their father’s instructions to prepare a new will in terms inconsistent with the provisions of the 2007 will, finding that such claim was doomed to fail.  The Court of Appeal upheld that decision.

Therefore, the only duty a will drafter has to beneficiaries is to carry out the instructions of the will maker in a competent and timely manner.

Non Binding (Precatory) Words In Will Not a Trust

Non Binding (Precatory) Words In Will Not a Trust

Non Binding (Precatory)  words in a will were found not to create a trust that was legally binding on the trustee, but instead that the words were non binding ( precatory) and thus only morally binding an thus an outright bequest.

Killam v Killam 2017 BCSC 175  contains an exhaustive review of the rules of construction in deciding whether the following provision of a will creates a trust that is legally binding to use for the bequest for the health, support and maintenance” of the beneficiary, or whether the words “ it is my desire but I do not direct “are merely morally binding ( precatory) and not legally binding:

The provision in dispute is worded differently than those concerning the other relatives. It reads:

Provided HUMPHREY HUBBARD KILLAM should survive me, then in such event I give and bequeath ONE (1) SHARE to EUGENE HUMPHREY KILLAM, provided, should he predecease me, then to LAWRENCE HEBB KILLAM. It is my desire, however, I do not direct, that said share shall be used for the health, support and maintenance of HUMPHREY HUBBARD KILLAM, for as long as he should live or as long as said funds are available for such purpose.

After an exhaustive review of the rules of construction of the court concluded that the words do not form a trust for the beneficiary and instead is an outright bequest.

Precatory Language

63      Professor Waters, in his authoritative work, Waters’ Law of Trusts in Canada, 4th ed. (Toronto, Ont.: Carswell, 2012), provides an interesting historical context to what some have referred to as “precatory trusts”. He notes, first of all, that the prime question of whether a trust has been created is still one of construction (at 145):

The question which gives rise to most litigation is whether a testator intends to create a trust, or merely impose some kind of moral obligation upon the legatee when he bequeaths personalty or devises land in confidence that the legatee will use the property in certain ways. He may speak, for instance, of his “expectation”, “fervent wish”, “desire”, “firm belief” or “purpose” that this will be done. Such words may give rise to what has been called “a precatory trust”, though, as Rigby L.J. pointed out in the English Court of Appeal, and his words have been echoed in Canada, this title is awkward and incorrect; “a misleading nickname”. If language, once construed, is held to intend a trust, then whether the language is precatory or otherwise, the trust which is thereby set up is the same as any other express trust, and no different rules apply.

64      There was a profound shift in the judicial approach to these sorts of cases starting in the nineteenth century, caused by an English statutory change (at 145 – 147):

Prior to the latter half of the nineteenth century the courts bent over backwards to find that testamentary language of a precatory kind revealed the intention to transfer on trust. By imposing a binding obligation upon the recipient of the property, the wishes of the testator were held to be safeguarded, concerning those who were to benefit from his property. Moreover, before 1830, the executor in English law took the residue of the estate beneficially, if it were not otherwise disposed of; and where it was incumbent upon the executor to respect only the wishes, hopes, desires, and belief of the testator that others would be benefited, the temptation of the executor to ignore those moral obligations was considerable. Then, in 1830, that right of the executor was statutorily taken away, and thereafter, the pace picking up after 1870, the courts became gradually less inclined to discover trust intention in mere precatory words. It is generally agreed that the climate of judicial attitude changed noticeably with the case of Lambe v. Eames and Canadian courts have joined in this new attitude. In 1889, in Bank of Montreal v. Bower, Chancellor Boyd of the Ontario High Court Chancery Division stated:

It would be an otiose undertaking to go through all the cases, for they are numerous, and cannot be reconciled. But since Lambe v. Eames . . . . there has been a new departure in favour of confining language supposed to create a trust for the children [of the testator and the widow] within much narrower limits, than in some of the earlier cases. If the entire interest in the subject of the gift is given with superadded words expressing the nature of the gift, or the confident expectation that the subject will be applied for the benefit of particular persons, but without . . . terms cutting down the interest before given, it will not now be held . . . that a trust has been thereby created.

And in Johnson v. Farney, Meredith C.J.O. adopted the view of Cozens-Hardy M.R. in the leading English case of Re Atkinson that every care has to be taken not to make mandatory words from those which are the mere indication of a wish or request, and that to construe the true intention of the testator, the courts must examine the trust instrument as a whole and not be mesmerised by particular words. Earlier, in Renehan v. Malone, this same view had been expressed by Barker J. On many occasions, Trench v. Hamilton has been approved in Canadian courts. In that case, Lindley L.J. pointed out that the meaning which a court derives must prevail even if judges in the past have drawn different conclusions from more or less similar language.

65      Professor Waters concludes as follows (at 147):

Whether a trust has been created is simply a matter of construction; this principle has not changed. What has changed is the tendency found in the earlier cases to discover imperative meaning in various word formulae, like “wish and direction” or “trusting that” and expressions of that nature.

BC Wills Variation: Severance of Court Actions

Severance of Court Actions Upheld On Appeal

The Court of Appeal in Johnston v Johnston Estate 2017 BCCA 59 upheld the trial decision found at 2016 BCSC 1388 where an action seeking that a will was invalid, or alternatively if it was valid it should be varied under the wills variation provisions , should be severed into two court actions, with the validity of the will to be determined firstly.

The Appeal Court expanded upon the reasons of the trial judge in  ordering a severance of the two claims as follows:

A discretionary decision of a lower court will be reversible where that court misdirected itself or came to a decision that is so clearly wrong that it amounts to an injustice: Elsom v. Elsom, [1989] 1 S.C.R. 1367, at p. 1375. Reversing a lower court’s discretionary decision is also appropriate where the lower court gives no or insufficient weight to relevant considerations: Friends of the Oldman River Society v. Canada . . . [At para. 27.]

(See also: Rise & Shine Grocery & Gas Ltd. v. Novak, 2016 BCCA 483 at paras. 36 — 37.)

43      The standard of review for discretionary decisions is one of deference.

44      As noted by the PGT, in addition to the court’s jurisdiction under Rule 22-5, it may temporarily stay a proceeding pursuant to its inherent jurisdiction or under s. 8(2) of the Law and Equity Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 253, or both: Zurich Indemnity Co. of Canada v. Western Delta Lands Inc. (1997), 38 B.C.L.R. (3d) 273, 95 B.C.A.C. 165 at para. 14 (C.A.), leave to appeal to S.C.C. refused [1997] S.C.C.A. No. 469. In exercising its discretion to grant or deny a stay, the court must weigh the potential benefits and prejudice at play and fairly balance the parties’ competing interests.

45      The court’s jurisdiction under Rule 22-5, s. 8(2) of the Law and Equity Act, and its inherent jurisdiction are exceptions to the principle stated in s. 10 of the Law and Equity Act as to the general avoidance of multiplicity of legal proceedings “as far as possible”.

46      I would endorse the judge’s non-exclusive summary of the key considerations relevant to an application to sever and the general principles governing severance:

[68] The key factors engaged in a general sense on an application to sever were canvassed in Schaper v. Sears Canada, 2000 BCSC 1575[Schaper] at para. 19:

1. . . . the party making the request must show that hearing the claims together would unduly complicate, delay the hearing, or otherwise be inconvenient. If a party applying does not meet this threshold, the court need not go further in any analysis and the application should be dismissed.

2. Have the actions of any party in the proceeding been unreasonable and have they contributed to the complication, the delay, or the inconvenience alleged by the party applying? If this found [sic], that would strengthen the argument to sever.

3. Are the issues between the plaintiff and defendant and the issues between the defendant and the third party sufficiently distinct so as to allow them to be tried separately? If so, that strengthens the argument to sever off third party proceeding.

4. Is the relief claimed by, or the potential obligation of, any party best determined by hearing the evidence of all parties at one hearing? If so, that weakens an application to sever.

5. Does the prejudice to the party applying, prejudice based on undue complication, delay or inconvenience, outweigh any benefit of matters being heard together, or outweigh any considerations related to the overall objective of the rules to ensure a just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every proceeding on its merits, including the avoidance of a multiplicity of proceedings for the benefits of litigants and having concern to congestion in the courts generally?

[69] Guidelines that focused attention more keenly on the efficacy of the trial process were helpfully laid out in O’Mara v. Son, Kim et al., 2007 BCSC 871[O’Mara] at para. 23:

1. whether the order sought will create a saving in pre-trial procedures;

2. whether there will be a real reduction in the number of trial days taken up by the trial being heard at the same trial;

3. whether a party may be seriously inconvenienced by being required to attend a trial in which the party may have a marginal interest;

4. whether there will be a real saving in expert’s time and witness fees;

5. whether one of the actions is at a more advanced stage than the other;

6. whether the order sought will result in delay of the trial of any one of the actions and, if so, whether any prejudice which a party might suffer as a result of that delay outweighs the potential benefits which a consolidated trial might otherwise have;

7. the possibility of inconsistent findings and common issues resulting from separate trials.

[70] Severance may well be appropriate where the determination of one issue will render another one moot: Lawrence v. ICBC, 2001 BCSC 1530[Lawrence].

[71] The judicial discretion to sever trials or hearings is to be exercised sparingly: Morrison Knudsen Co. v. British Columbia Hydro & Power Authority, 1972 CarswellBC 62, 24 D.L.R. (3d) 579 (S.C.); Lawrence at para. 43. The test for severance is not applied in a vacuum; it is to be considered against the backdrop of the nature of the particular case at hand: Wirtz v. Constantini, 137 D.L.R. (3d) 393, 1982 CarswellBC 588 (S.C.). Because the determination involves an individualized assessment of the unique case before the Court, there is no closed list of uniformly applied considerations that inform the exercise of the Court’s discretion.

47      The judge also identified specific principles relevant to the nature of the case before her. In particular, she recognized limitations on the powers of a committee and on the nature of claims that can properly be included in a counterclaim to a proof of will in solemn form proceeding. Citing Re: Langford and The Patients Property Act, 2000 BCSC 721, she said:

[77] There is no question but that as the executor named in the Impugned Wills, the PGT is entitled to bring the Proof of Will Action. On the surface, s. 24 of the PPA suggests that in its capacity as committee of Norman’s estate, the PGT would have the authority to defend against the other claims. However, in Re: Langford and The Patients Property Act, 2000 BCSC 721 [Re: Langford], the Court reasoned that the legislature could not have intended to invest a committee with all of the powers of an executor or administrator such as obtaining title to the deceased’s assets or winding up and distributing the estate of the deceased patient. It held that because s. 24 expressly contemplates that probate or administration will be taken out after a patient’s death, it is intended to be operative only in the intervening period. In the result, Re: Langford held that s. 24 simply authorizes a committee of a deceased patient to maintain the status quo of the deceased patient’s estate during the hiatus period pending the issuance of letters probate or administration.

And as to Clark v. Nash, [1986] B.C.J. No. 1655, 39 A.C.W.S. (2d) 375 (S.C.), aff’d [1987] B.C.J. No. 304, 3 A.C.W.S. (3d) 412 (C.A.), the judge reasoned:

[83] . . . there is case authority that has placed some limitation on the nature of claims that can properly be included in a counterclaim to a proof of will in solemn form proceeding. In Clark v. Nash, [1986] B.C.J. No. 1655 (S.C.) aff’d [1987] B.C.J. No. 304 (C.A.) [Clark], the Court held that the procedure and hearing involved in a proof of will in solemn form proceeding should be limited to the aspects of the will execution, testamentary capacity, want of knowledge and fraud. The Court reasoned that a counterclaim to vary a will that is alleged to be invalid is therefore premature, and hearing it at the same time or before the action involving the proof of the challenged will is neither just nor convenient

[84] Since its pronouncement, Clark has stood for the general proposition that it is improper to include a wills variation claim in an action for proof of will in solemn form on the footing that a valid will is a condition precedent to a variation proceeding. Although I believe that, on occasion, this Court has heard such claims together (presumably without being taken to Clark), Clark nonetheless strengthens the application to sever, at least vis-a-vis David’s claim to have the Impugned Wills varied.