Court of Appeal Allows Courts to Interpret Trust Documents

Appeal JudgeCourt of Appeal Allows Courts to Interpret Trust Documents


The almost chestnut re Engleman Estate 1986 23 ETR 30, BCCA,

The will of the deceased made his two brothers co-executors and sole beneficiaries. A major asset of the estate was a farm on which the respondent brother resided. The will empowered the executors to sell and convert property of the estate into money. The petitioner wished to accept a third party’s offer to purchase the farm. The respondent wished to reject this offer and was himself prepared to offer to purchase the petitioner’s interest in the farm for an amount that equalled the proceeds the petitioner would receive from the third party purchaser.
The petitioner sought the direction of the Court pursuant to s. 88(1) of the Trustee Act (British Columbia). The respondent originally took the position that the Court had no jurisdiction under s. 88(1) to make an order directing the sale of the farm since that provision could not be used to decide a question affecting the rights of the parties to property. During the course of the argument, however, the respondent argued that the Court should direct the petitioner to accept the respondent’s offer to purchase his share.
At first instance it was held that the Court should direct the respondent to accept the third party’s offer since the result of the ensuing sale would be to give each party his legal entitlement under the will: this direction would, consequently, give effect to the parties’ rights. However, the Court did not have jurisdiction to require the petitioner to accept the respondent’s offer to purchase his interest: such a direction would alter the petitioner’s right under the will to require that the property be sold and converted into cash.
The respondent appealed.
The appeal was allowed.
The Judge at first instance incorrectly interpreted the will as containing a direction to sell the property rather than a discretionary power to do so. The executors were not bound to sell the estate and divide the proceeds in cash. It was open to them to distribute the estate in specie. Accordingly, a sale of the farm to one brother could not be said to frustrate the intention of the testator.
Moreover, the Judge was not restricted to the exercise of jurisdiction pursuant to s. 88 of the Trustee Act. In the circumstances that there was a deadlock, the Court had an inherent equitable jurisdiction to intervene to break the deadlock.
The proper order to make was to direct the sale of the farm to the respondent at the same price as the third party had offered. This was just and equitable since the respondent had a particular and long-lasting connection with the property and he had a personal interest in being able to continue to reside on it. Such an order would not, moreover, cause any prejudice to the petitioner since it was established that the price offered was the proper market price and the sale would give to the petitioner his proper share of the value of that part of the estate.

Probate Procedure When Four Wills In Dispute

Re Dow Estate 2015 BCSC 292 an issue of probate procedure arose  due to the fact that the deceased made four wills in the last 2 1/2 years of his life.

The plaintiff was Disputed Willsnamed as a beneficiary in the first and third wills, but not the second or the final fourth will.

The applicant, who stood to inherit $255,000 at of an estate worth approximately $2.6 million, raised the issue of the testator’s capacity when he made his final will, as well as alleging undue influence.

The master found that the applicant met the threshold of Rule 25-2 (1) finding that there was a risk that the applicant would otherwise be prejudiced, since if probate were granted, that the estate could be distributed before her claim as to the alleged lack of mental capacity could be assessed.

Accordingly she was allowed to join in the court action.


14]         A person who is interested in an estate including an applicant for the estate grant (in this case, Mr. Cosar) could apply to set aside the notice of dispute pursuant to Rule 25-10(10). The court may remove the notice of dispute if the court determines that the filing is not in the best interests of the estate (Rule 25-10(11)). Whether the court might consider setting the notice of dispute aside on terms which protect Ms. Golos’s interests and at the same time allowing for an interim distribution remains to be seen. Also, s. 103 of the Wills, Estates and Succession Act provides for the court-supervised administration of an estate pending legal proceedings concerning the validity of a will. If those procedures are invoked, then the administration of the estate can move forward pending the applicant’s investigation of her concerns about mental incapacity and undue influence.

[15]         The applicant has met the threshold required by Rule 25-2(14). There is a risk that if she is not included in the class of persons entitled to receive information about the estate and to file a notice of dispute, she will be prejudiced. The prejudice is the risk that Mr. Cosar will be granted probate and the estate will be distributed before the applicant’s claim can be assessed. That prejudice outweighs the possible delay in the distribution of the estate.

Unsigned Copy of Lost Will Admitted Into Probate

Is an unsigned copy of a lost will admittable?

The law is clear: If the original will is last known to be in the will maker’s possession and cannot be found after death after an extensive search,  then the law presumes that the testator destroyed the will in order to revoke the will. This presumption can be rebutted by written or oral evidence. The Courts have held that it is a heavy burden to rebut and that in this case, the attackers failed to prove she revoked the will due to her dementia, and admitted her unsigned will into probate.

In Polischuk Estate v Perry 2014 BCSC 1089, the petitioner sought a declaration that the deceased’s last will had been lost and that an order granting probate of an unsigned copy of the will should be admitted to probate.

A lawyer testified that ” based on my 30 years of acting as her legal representative, I firmly believe that if Nettie ( the deceased) was of sound mind, she would never revoke her will by destroying it”.

No one was ever told that she had  destroyed it or intended to do so. The deceased suffered from dementia for some years before her death.

An extensive search failed to find the original will that was last in the possession of the deceased, but an unsigned copy of the will was found that reflected the instructions given to the will drafter.

The Court concluded that it had no difficulty determining that the deceased did in fact sign the original will in question, that she was the last person to have possession of it, that it should have ben in her safety deposit box, but for some reason, perhaps her dementia, it was not.

The Court then examined the burden of proof required to rebut the presumption that the deceased revoked the original will, found that those attacking the unsigned copy of the will being admitted into probate did not prove on the balance of probabilities that the will was revoked while the deceased was alive a sound mind.

The law

[60]     The law is clear: if a will is last known to be in the testator’s possession and cannot be found, the law presumes the testator destroyed the will in order to revoke the will. However, the presumption can be rebutted by written or oral evidence.

[61]     In Haider v. Kalugin, 2008 BCSC 930 at paras. 9-13 Wilson J. helpfully summarized the law applicable to this issue:

  1. The applicable law is not in dispute. When an original will has been lost, mislaid or destroyed or is not available, an application may be made for an order admitting the will to probate by a copy, a completed draft, a reconstruction or evidence of its content: British Columbia Probate and Estate Administration Manual, 2nd edition, 2007, s.5.61.
  2. If a Will last known to be in custody of testator is not found at his death, the presumption is that the testator destroyed it with the intention of revoking it (“animo revocandi”). However, that presumption may be rebutted by evidence, written or oral, of the facts. The strength of the presumption will depend upon the character of the custody which the testator had over the Will: Sugden v. Lord St. Leonards (1876), 1 P.D. 154 (Eng. C.A.).

10.       In Sigurdson v. Sigurdson, [1935] 2 D.L.R. 445 (Man. C.A.), at paragraph 49, Davis J.

[49]      It needs very clear and convincing evidence to establish what is alleged to be a lost will… .The person propounding such a will has a burden of proof that persists throughout the whole trial to satisfy the court at its conclusion that the will is in fact lost and was not destroyed by the testator with the intention of putting an end to it. Each case of course turns upon its own facts but the principles respecting the well-settled presumption against the Will must be applied to the facts.

11.       In Welch v. Phillips (1836), 1 Moo. P.C. 299 (England P.C.), at 302 , referred to in
Bohersky, Re, [1954] A.J. No. 12 (Alta. Dist. Ct.), at paragraph 6, the court said:

[6]       If a will traced to the possession of the deceased, and last seen there, is not forthcoming on his death, it is presumed to have been destroyed by the deceased himself; and that presumption must have effect, unless there is good and sufficient reason to repel it. It is a presumption founded on good sense, for it is highly reasonable to suppose that an instrument of so much importance would be carefully preserved, by a person of ordinary caution, in some place of safety and would not be either lost or stolen, and if, on the death of a maker, is not found in his usual repositories or else where he resides, it is in a high degree of probable that the deceased himself has purposely destroyed it. But this presumption, like all others of fact, may be rebutted by others, which raises a higher degree of probability to the contrary.

12.       As stated by MacKeigan, C.J.N.S. in MacBurnie v. Patriquin, [1975] N.S.J. No. 447
(N.S. C.A.), at paragraph 10:

[10] I should emphasize that the burden on the person who is trying to rebut the presumption is a very heavy burden.

13.       Some of the factors considered in determining whether the presumption has been
overcome are:

  • whether the terms of the Will itself were reasonable: Lefebvre v. Major, [1930] S.C.R. 252 (S.C.C.) [hereinafter Pigeon];
  • whether the testator continued to have good relationships with the beneficiaries in the copy of the Will up to the date of death: Pigeon, supra;
  • where personal effects of the deceased were destroyed prior to the search for the Will being carried out: Pigeon, supra;
  • the nature and character of the deceased in taking care of personal effects: Pigeon, supra
  • whether there were any dispositions of property that support or contradict the terms of the copy sought to be probated: MacBurnie v. Patriquin, supra; Andersson v. Khan Estate, [2006] B.CJ. No. 716 (B.C. S.C.);
  • statements made by the testator which confirm or contradict the terms of distribution set out in the will: Bohersky Estate, supra, Andersson, supra, Hoist Estate v. Hoist, [2001] B.CJ. No. 1560 (B.C. S.C.), Green Estate, Re, [2001] A.J. No. 1253 (Alta. Q.B.);
  • whether the testator was of the character to store valuable papers, and whether the testator had a safe place to store the papers: Bohersky Estate, supra, Brimicombe v. Brimicombe Estate, [2000] N.S.J. No. 157 (N.S. C.A.);
  • whether there is evidence that the testator understood the consequences of not having a Will, and the effects of intestacy: Bobersky Estate, supra;
  • whether the testator made statements to the effect that he had a will: Bobersky Estate, supra

[62]     A different situation arises when a testator becomes mentally incapable/unstable after executing the will.

[63]     In this case, the evidence shows that Nettie was mentally stable on August 31,2004, but as of February 9,2010, she was declared to be mentally unable to manage her financial and legal affairs due to Alzheimer’s disease. We do not know at what exact point between these two dates Nettie became unable to manage her affairs due to her cognitive impairment.

[64]     InReBroome, [1961] MJ. No. 51 (C.A.), 29 D.L.R. (2d) 631 atp.633 [ReBroome], Freedman, J.A. said:

It seems to me that fundamentally this case turns on the question of onus of proof. No one saw the testator destroy his will. In fact it may never have been destroyed. It has simply not been found after very extensive searches therefor. In such circumstances – leaving aside for the moment the question of insanity – there is a prima facie presumption that the testator destroyed the will animo revocandi. Such presumption, however, may be rebutted by evidence, which, however, must be clear and satisfactory: 34 Hals. 2   ed., p. 87. The intervention of insanity after execution of the will however, creates a different situation. That an insane person lacks the legal capacity to revoke his will is unquestionable. If Reuben Broome destroyed his will while insane such destruction would not constitute revocation of the will. On that both counsel agree. But since there is no evidence as to when he destroyed his will – assuming he did so -there is a sharp divergence between counsel as to what presumptions apply and to who must bear the burden of proof.

[Emphasis added.]

[65]     And continuing at p. 634, Freedman, J.A said :

The rule places on the party alleging revocation the burden of showing that the destruction occurred while the testator was of sound mind.

[66]    The preceding law establishes that the burden of proof is, in most circumstances, on the party asserting that the will was in fact lost and not destroyed. Re Broome, however, notes that the burden of proof shifts in the circumstance where a person becomes mentally incapable/unstable. When that situation arises, the evidentiary burden shifts to the party alleging that the testator destroyed the will to prove that the destruction occurred while the testator had capacity.

[67]     Since hearing submissions on this application, I have been directed to Yarmie Estate (Re), 2008 SKQB 74 [Yarmie]. In that case, the applicant grandson of the deceased applied to prove that an unsigned copy of the will was his grandmother’s last will and testament. No executed original was ever located, and the executed will was last in the deceased’s possession. The presumption that the deceased destroyed the will applied. As no evidence before the Court rebutted that presumption, the Court refused to admit the will to probate.

[68]     The difference between the facts in Yarmie and the facts in the case before me is that after executing the 2004 will, Nettie became unable to manage her own financial and legal affairs. That fact shifted the burden of proof to the nephews to prove on a balance of probabilities that the will was destroyed and revoked when Nettie was of sound mind.

[69]     In this case, the nephews cannot discharge that burden.

[70]     The nephews cannot prove when Nettie became mentally unstable. All they can say is that she would have crossed the line between being mentally sound and being unable to manage her affairs at some point after August 31, 2004 and before February 8, 2010. Some evidence, albeit somewhat questionable from statements by Nettie to Jessie Kooner before the February 8, 2010 declaration, demonstrates that she suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for approximately two years. Moreover, absolutely no evidence demonstrates that Nettie destroyed the 2004 Will – intentionally or otherwise. Based on her mental state at the time, she simply could have lost the 2004 Will.

[71]     In this case, while the evidentiary burden shifted to the nephews, in any event, the petitioner could still discharge his burden to demonstrate that Nettie did not intend to revoke the 2004 Will.

[72]     Referring to the factors Heider lists at para. 13, the following evidence is relevant to demonstrate that Nettie did not intend to revoke her 2004 Will:

a)          The 2004 Will’s terms were reasonable. In that will, she maintained her wishes to make charitable donations to organizations she considered worthy of bequests and that the bulk of her estate was to go to her sister Mary. Nettie began to reside with Mary in 2009, and Mary had been the major beneficiary in previous wills, and Nettie was always close with her. Nettie also provided for her close friends, Joanne Grunerud and Norah Smith, who she considered to be “like family” and for her long-term lawyer in lieu of charging fees in administering her estate. These bequests are also consistent with her previous will’s bequests, except for eliminating shares in her estate to her nephews and nieces. Regarding the latter, evidence demonstrates that Nettie experienced a “falling out” with her twin brother’s children. In fact, she expressed this sentiment to Steven Wong and Ms. Grunerud, and I find such evidence to be a credible explanation for Nettie excluding her nephews and nieces. In making such a finding I appreciate the nephews have deposed to not being aware of any “falling out”, but the likelihood of such a situation is reasonable.

b)         Nettie did not place the 2004 Will in any of the safety deposit boxes to which she had access. No evidence explains why she did not place the 2004 Will in a safety deposit box as she had.

Lawyers Questionnaire Admitted Into Probate Will

questionnaireGarnett Estate v Garnett Estate 2013 BCSC 1731 is an interesting case where pre WESA, a lawyers questionnaire re will instructions was determined by the court to be a valid will and admitted into probate.

In this case the executrix brought an action to prove the will of the deceased in solemn form.

The deceased was in palliative care and it became apparent that she would not survive long enough to meet with a lawyer to complete a new will. She then had two witnesses sign the lawyers questionnaire left by the lawyer, which the deceased signed in the witnesses presence.

The will questionnaire did not have a residue clause, and in fact the two witnesses to the will were beneficiaries so they could not inherit under that document.

Nevertheless the court determined that the testamentary intention of the deceased was to make “a fixed and final expression as to the disposal of her property on death “( Das Estate 2012 NSSC 441 at para 18).

The court found that despite the unconventional form of the 2008 document and its original generation as a lawyers questionnaire which would ordinarily have led to the finalization of a more sophisticated document, the court found in the circumstances of the deceased demonstrated her obvious intention that the document constituted testamentary disposition.

Proof of a will in solemn form

[35] I quote from Gillis v. Ardies, 2009 BCSC 215 at paras. 19-20 per Parrett J.:

[19] In today’s process, proof in solemn form requires the executor (or the will’s proponents) to meet the evidentiary burden of proving the will before the court. In such a hearing the executor must satisfy the court by adducing evidence –

that the will in question was duly executed;
that the testator had the capacity to appreciate and understand its contents; and
that he had the ability to sign the will.
[20] In the present case, proving the will in solemn form is required to address the issue of whether or not portions of the writing are invalid, and to determine what, in fact, constitutes the will.

[36] I find the above a helpful summary of the steps I must take to deal with the application to prove Ms. Garnett’s will in solemn form.

No Lack of Capacity or Undue Influence – Will Admitted to Probate

Chang Estate v Chang 2013 BCSC 976 is a well considered judgement of Justice Dardi, who had extensive experience in estate litigation prior to her elevation to the Bench.

The testatrix,a widow, died in 2007 at age 98. She and her late husband had four children, and their only daughter the plaintiff, was the youngest. Their three sons were the defendants.

In 1998 the deceased and her husband purchased a house and put one son on title as a joint tenant with his parents. The testatrix and her husband never did live in that property, and that particular son collected the rent and prayed paid the property taxes and expenses , until 2004 when the testatrix paid two thirds of the property taxes and utilities.

In 1997 that sons, son sued his grand mother and grandfather over a dispute that had arisen regarding the property.

The matter went to trial in July 1999 and was dismissed.

The testatrix found those events very distressing and in January 1998 she and her husband severed the joint tenancy , leaving that son with a one third interest as a tenant in common.


The testatrix executed her will in July 2000, and her husband executed a reciprocal will at the same time.

The plaintiff was appointed the executrix, and the son with the one third interest in the property was given a $10 bequest, with the remainder of the estate being divided 30% to the plaintiff, 30% to one brother and 40% to the other brother.


The will explain the reasons for the minimal bequest to the one son, saying the testatrix and her husband had provided much assistance to him and had given him one third of the Surrey property, from which he had collected all of the rents for his own use.


The will also said that he and his family house have caused us much grief, heartache, and unhappiness and shame.


The plaintiff applied to prove the will and codicil dated July 2005 in solemn form.


The son challenged the validity of the will and codicil on the grounds that the testatrix lacked testamentary capacity and that the will was a product of coercion and or undue influence.


The court held that the testatrix had proved on the balance of probabilities that the will was executed in compliance with the statutory formalities, that the testatrix knew and approved of the contents of the will, and that she had testamentary capacity.


The professionals who prepared the will gave evidence, and it was proven that both documents were executed after having been read to the testatrix, who appeared to understand the contents.


The law presume the testatrix knew and approved of the will and possess the requisite testamentary capacity.


The evidence of the testatrix physician and those who prepared the documents and attended upon execution also established attempted testamentary capacity.


No suspicious circumstances arose in the facts established by the evidence, nor was there any evidence of undue influence by the plaintiff or anyone else.

Legal Framework

[25] The Supreme Court of Canada in Vout v. Hay, [1995] 2 S.C.R. 876 clarified the principles with respect to the burden of proof in litigation regarding contested wills. The Court articulated the considerations which govern the interrelation of the doctrine of suspicious circumstances and the issues of testamentary capacity, knowledge and approval, undue influence and fraud.

[26] In an action for proof of will in solemn form, the party propounding the will must prove on a balance of probabilities that the will was executed in compliance with the statutory formalities, that the will-maker knew and approved of the contents of the will and that the will-maker had testamentary capacity: Vout at paras. 19-20.

[27] In order to make a valid will, the will-maker must have a “baseline level of mental acuity” or a “disposing mind and memory”, sufficient to appreciate and comprehend the nature and effect of the essential elements of the testamentary act. This encompasses an appreciation of the claims of the persons who are the natural objects of her estate and the extent of her property of which she is disposing: Laszlo v. Lawton, 2013 BCSC 305 at para. 185; Banks v. Goodfellow (1870), L.R.5 Q.B. 549; Leger v. Poirier, [1944] S.C.R. 152 at 161. The assessment of whether a will-maker possesses testamentary capacity is a highly individualized inquiry and is a question of fact to be determined in all the circumstances: James v. Field, 2001 BCCA 267 at para. 51; Laszlo at para. 197.

[28] In certain circumstances, the propounder of the will, in discharging the burden of proof, is aided by a rebuttable presumption of validity. If the will was duly executed in accordance with the requisite statutory formalities after being read over to or by a testator who appeared to understand it, it is presumed the testator possessed the requisite testamentary capacity and knew and approved of its contents:Vout at para. 26.

[29] This presumption may be rebutted by evidence of “well-grounded suspicions”, referred to in the jurisprudence as “suspicious circumstances”, relating to one or more of the following circumstances:

(i) surrounding the preparation of the will;

(ii) tending to call into question the capacity of the will-maker; or

(iii) tending to show that the free will of the will-maker was overborne by acts of coercion or fraud: Vout at para. 25.

[30] If suspicious circumstances are established, then the presumption is spent and the legal burden of proof reverts to the propounder of the will. The propounder of the will then reassumes the legal burden of proving knowledge and approval, as well as proving testamentary capacity, if the suspicious circumstances reflect on the mental capacity of the will-maker to make a will: Woodward v. Grant, 2007 BCSC 1192 at para. 108. In order to discharge the burden, the propounder of the will is required to dispel the suspicious circumstances that have been raised: Ostrander v. Black (1996), 12E.T.R. (2d) 219 at para. 30 (Gen. Div.).

[31] In Vout, the Court affirmed that if a court determines that suspicious circumstances exist, the applicable standard of proof is a balance of probabilities. However, the evidence must be scrutinized in accordance with the gravity of the suspicion raised in any particular case.

[32] In order to rebut the presumption of validity, those attacking the will must meet the threshold of demonstrating that there is some evidence “which, if accepted, would tend to negative knowledge and approval or testamentary capacity”: Vout at para. 27; Maddess v. Racz, 2009 BCCA 539 at para. 31. The court in Scott v. Cousins (2001), 37 E.T.R. (2d) 113 (Ont. S.C.J.) describes the requisite evidence as that which “excites the suspicion of the court”. A “general miasma of suspicion that something unsavoury may have occurred” is insufficient to rebut the presumption of validity; the evidence must raise a “specific and focused suspicion”: Clark v. Nash (1989), 61 D.L.R. (4th) 409 at 425 (B.C.C.A.).

[33] The court in Laszlo provides the following instructive observations regarding the doctrine of suspicious circumstances at para. 207:

Suspicious circumstances have been found to exist in a wide array of situations and are not necessarily sinister in nature. There is no checklist of circumstantial factors that will invariably fit the classification. Commonly occurring themes include where a beneficiary is instrumental in the preparation of the will (especially where the beneficiary stands in a fiduciary position to the testator), or where the will favours “someone who has not previously been the object of [the testator’s] bounty and does not fall within the class of persons testators usually remember in their wills, that is to say their next of kin.

Undue Influence

[34] When undue influence or fraud is alleged, the party opposing probate always bears the legal burden of proving on a balance of probabilities the affirmative defence of undue influence: Vout at para. 28. It is important to appreciate that in these circumstances, the doctrine of suspicious circumstances and the shifting of the burden of proof has no application.

[35] In order to invalidate a will on the grounds of undue influence, the asserting party must prove that the influence exerted against the will-maker amounted to coercion, such that the will did not reflect the true intentions of a free will-maker and was not the product of the will-maker’s own act. The undue influence must constitute coercion which could not be resisted by the will-maker and which destroyed his or her free agency. It is well-established on the authorities that if the will-maker remains able to act freely, the exercise of significant advice or persuasion on the will-maker or an attempt to appeal to the will-maker or the mere desire of the will-maker to gratify the wishes of another, will not amount to undue influence: Maddess v. Racz, 2008 BCSC 1550 at para. 324 aff’d 2009 BCCA 539; Freeman v. Freeman (1889), 19 O.R. 141 at 155 (C. A.); Scott at para. 112.

Administration Durante Absentia

Section 7 of the Estate Administration Act allows the court to appoint a person to administer an estate or part of it where an executor resides out of the province “and it appears to the court to be necessary or convenient by reason of the insolvency of the estate of the deceased or other special circumstances.”

 Administration Durante Absentia

Section 11 provides: .(1) This section applies if

(a) the executor to whom probate of a will has been granted, or


(b) the administrator to whom administration of an estate has been granted,


is residing outside British Columbia at the end of 12 calendar months from the death of the deceased.


(2) A creditor, spouse, next of kin or legatee may apply to the court for an order under subsection (3), on an affidavit setting out


(a) the capacity in and the grounds on which the applicant applies, and


(b) that delay is being caused in the administration of the estate of the testator or intestate, owing to the absence of the executor or administrator from British Columbia.


(3) On application under subsection (2), the court may grant to the applicant special administration of the estate of the deceased person, either general or limited, and on the terms as to notice and security as the court thinks fit.


(4) Subsections (1) to (3) do not abridge the powers of the court as defined in preceding sections.


(5) If an executor capable of acting returns to British Columbia and becomes resident in British Columbia when an application under subsection (2) is pending, the executor must be made a party to the application, and the costs incurred by granting administration under subsection (3) are in the discretion of the court.


(6) A person to whom administration is granted under subsection (3) has the same powers as an administrator appointed pending the minority of the next of kin.


(7) Pending an application for the grant of special administration under subsection (3) the court may appoint a person to collect any debts or effects due to the estate and to give discharges for them.


(8) A person appointed under subsection (7) must give security as the court orders for the proper discharge of the person’s duties.


s.11(2) A creditor, spouse, next of kin or legatee may apply to the court for an order under subsection (3), on an affidavit setting out(a) the capacity in and the grounds on which the applicant applies, and

(b) that delay is being caused in the administration of the estate of the testator or
intestate, owning to the absence of the executor or administrator from British Columbia.


Such a grant has been held to continue in force after the death of the original personal representative. (Taynton v. Hannay (1802) 3 Bos. & P26).


The application is made by way of a requisition and should be accompanied by an affidavit setting out the capacity in and the grounds upon which the applicant applies, and that the delay has been caused in the administration of the estate due to the absence of the personal representative from the province. Notice should be given to any person who has received a prior grant.


The grant is usually limited to the time at which the absentee returns to the province.


If an executor or administrator has disappeared (as opposed to being absent from the province) an application for revocation of the grant and issuance of a further grant under s. 7 of the Estate Administration Act may be advisable.

Administration By Attorney

administration by attorneyRule 21 (27) provides for the administration of an estate by an attorney.:

“ If a person entitled to administration resides outside British Columbia, administration by attorney, or administration with the will annexed, may be granted to the person or the person’s attorney acting under a power of attorney”.

The attorney need not be a resident of British Columbia, and such a grant generally will not be made to an attorney residing in the same jurisdiction as the donor.


In re Edmundson Estate 1963, 44 WWR 119 (BCSC) , the court commented at page 123 that the case law:

“suggests that if the principal and the attorney are both resident in the same place, the court would prefer the principle be appointed rather than the attorney. In other words, the provision for the appointment of an attorney is an additional right given to the person otherwise entitled to the administration to have an attorney appointed if the residence of the person otherwise entitled out of the jurisdiction makes it difficult for that person to perform his or her duties.”

The grant is limited for the use and benefit of the person who appoints the attorney and until that person applies for administration in British Columbia.


Administration by an attorney might be used when the person entitled to the administration has one or more of the following criteria:


A. Has language difficulties that may prevent him or her effectively handling the estate in British Columbia;

B. May be difficult to contact for the purpose of providing instructions are executing documents;

C. May have difficulty dealing with assets in this jurisdiction ie running an active business.

If there are several persons entitled to the grant, all residents of the jurisdiction, the grant may be made to the attorney of one, but subject to the consent of the others. Such an attorney is not merely the agent of the principal, but is responsible for the due administration of the assets and is liable to be called to account by the persons interested in the estate.

Administration Ad Colligenda Bona

Several years ago had an estate where the deceased had substantial assets that needed protection, while it took in excess of two years to locate his very distant next of kin in the far-off Ukraine. He had died intestate and no person came forward to be appointed administrator of the estate.

In these situations where there is a delay in the appointment of a general administrator and it is necessary for the protection of the estate that someone be empowered to protect the assets, then the court may well appoint an administrator ad colligenda bona.

This type of grant and is typically made when situations arise where either there is no one to be appointed administrator, or they cannot be located, or they have refused to accept a grant of administration.


The grant may even be made to a creditor or to a friend of the deceased, as the main purpose is to protect the assets until a proper administrator can be found and appointed.


The grant is usually limited to a particular purpose and time until the jungle until the general grant is made. It is for the administration only, the will is not proved her annexed, and bonding is generally required.

In Re Shalapay 3 BCLR 3d 217 the Court held that an Administratrix is entitled to reasonable remuneration for services performed as administratrix and as solicitor.

There is no statutory authority for the appointment of an administrator ad colligenda bona. However, the scope of the appointment is similar in nature to that of an administrator pendente lite. If the estate is large, a percentage fee as contemplated by s. 90 of the Trustee Act would be ridiculous. On the other hand, if the estate were small, a percentage fee might be insufficient.

An administratrix ad colligenda bona should be entitled to reasonable remuneration rather than a percentage of the estate for her work as administratrix and to her reasonable fees as solicitor. Her accounts as solicitor would be subject to review under the Legal Profession Act.

What Is Double Probate?

Executors frequently appoint more than one person as his or her personal representative, and on occasion not all parties who are entitled to apply for probate actually do. However at the same time they do not renounce their executor ship and reserve the right to apply at a later date.

If that executor does apply for probate at a later date, the new grant is called a double probate, that runs concurrently with the earlier grant, assuming one or more of the first executors to probate is still living.


The applicant for the double probate includes only the un- administered estate in his or her affidavit. The affidavit must also give particulars of the early grant of probate, and show that the power to him or her to apply was in fact reserved in the earlier grant.


The same notice of intention to apply for probate pursuant to section 112 of the Estate Administration act must be sent to all interested parties again, along with the appropriate supporting materials.

While textbook authors have stated that in theory one executor may apply for a grant of probate without notifying the other executors, in practice it is doubtful that a court would make such an order without notice, as it is important that the executors who are not appointed, reserve their right to apply at a later date, and that the right is specifically stated in the initial grant of probate.

Copy of Will Not Admitted to Probate, as No Proof Original Was Ever Signed

Re Whitehead Estate 2010 BCSC 348, the deceased was a founding member of a credit union and a retired bank manager. After his death, a “trued up” copy of will dated December 21, 1979 was found, but the original of that will was never located.

Under the will his sister was to receive $356,000, whereas on an intestacy, the sisters estate would receive 120,000. The sister had survived her brother, but subsequently died leaving two daughters.

The deceased was a meticulous record keeper who wrote letters to friends prior to his death that said she was getting her affairs in order, and did not want to leave loose ends for executors.


The deceased met with her financial advisors three times in the last month of her life. The financial advisor said that the deceased had plans to establish funds for various charities so as to reduce gifts to individuals and had placed $400,000 aside and guaranteed investment certificates.


The deceased solicitor had died and the original will was not found amongst his files.


The proposed administrator of the deceased estate made an application for a declaration that the deceased died intestate rated


The application was allowed.


No evidence was called to establish that the copy of will was properly executed in the first place, or was in fact a true copy of will.

There was no presumption that the will was destroyed, as there was no evidence that the deceased ever had possession of the original will.


20 The test for proving a lost will requires proof of the due execution of the will; particulars tracing possession of the will to the date of death, and afterwards if the will was lost after death; rebuttal of the presumption that the will was destroyed by the testator with the intention of revoking it; and proof of the contents of the lost will: Sorkos v. Cowderoy, [2006] O.J. No. 3652(Ont. C.A.).


21 Similarly, in O’Donovan v. O’Donovan, [2009] O.J. No. 5020(Ont. S.C.J.) the court noted that:


As previously stated, the original wills have not been located. Sheila found signed copies in the residence. Proving a lost will can be accomplished; that is proof as to its contents, due execution and testator’s capacity: see Oosterhoff on Wills and Succession, 5th edition, Carswell 2001 at p. 355. Professor Oosterhoff adds the propounder of the will “… must usually also overcome the presumption of destruction “animo revocandi” … if the will was last known to be in the deceased’s possession”: see, also, Lefebvre v. Major, [1930] S.C.R. 252(S.C.C.); and Sorkos v. Cowderoy (2006), E.T.R. (3d) 108 (Ont. C.A.). This concept follows the English authorities: see Sugden v. Lord St. Leonards(1876), 1 P.D. 154(C.A.).


There is no issue arising in this case as to the deceased’s testamentary capacity.


22 The applicant referred to Goudge, Re, [1978] N.B.J. No. 337(N.B. Prob. Ct.). In that case one of the issues was whether or not there was a properly executed will. The solicitor who had drawn the will testified that he was one of the witnesses to the execution of the will by the testatrix. He also said the second witness was present at the time the will was executed. On that evidence the will was proven to be a copy of a properly executed will.


23 The applicant says that kind of evidence is missing in this case. Not only has the solicitor who drew the will died, but also there is no one available who can identify the witnesses to the will whose names appear in the “trued up” copy. While the will has all of the appearances of a copy of a properly executed will, the applicant says that it cannot be presumed to be properly executed by appearance only and requires evidence from someone who can swear that it is a true copy of will and that it was properly executed.


24 In Goudge’s Estate, supra., and other cases such as Green Estate, Re, 2001 ABQB 835(Alta. Q.B.), and Flaman Estate, Re, [1997] S.J. No. 442(Sask. Q.B.) evidence was presented by a witness who was able to testify to the proper execution of the will and that it was a true copy of the original.


25 In Flaman, the court held that the two main requirements to admit a copy of will to probate are that there be proof of execution of the original and proof of the contents. The court held that there was no proof of execution of the will and it was not admitted to probate. Instead, a direction was given that proper proof of execution was required. The court referred to Williams on Wills, 5th ed., Vol. 1 (London, Butterworths, 1980) at p. 96 where it was stated:


… Where a testamentary document has been lost or destroyed in such a way as not to effect a revocation probate may be granted of the contents thereof upon proof of such contents and due execution and attestation of the instrument. Where the person setting up an alleged will cannot produce any copy or draft or any written evidence of its contents, he must prove all these matters so as to remove all reasonable (but not all possible) doubt on these points


. . . . .


9 As well, R.B. Rowe, E. Heward & G.F. Dawe, eds, Tristam and Coote’s Probate Practice, 25th ed. (London: Butterworths, 1978) sets out at p. 561 what an affidavit should show if, as in this case, no copy or draft of the will is available. First of all, “[i]f the original will was not forthcoming at the death of the testator, the full circumstances in which it was last known to be in existence but failed to be forthcoming at the death.” Secondly, “[d]ue execution of the original will, which should, whenever possible, be proved by one of the attesting witnesses.” Thirdly, the affidavit must also show “[w]ho are the persons prejudiced by the admission of the document sought to be established … and whether they are all sui juris.” Is there anyone who would take a greater interest under an intestacy or under an earlier will? Fourthly, the affidavit should “depose to the contents of the will as set out in a reconstruction, which should be in the form of a separate document exhibited to the affidavit.”


10 T.G. Feeney in The Canadian Law of Wills, states at p. 99 that:


… [P]robate may be granted of the contents of the lost will, after proof of due execution, on such secondary evidence as a copy or a draft or solicitor’s notes or any other written evidence; and indeed, if it is sufficiently clear, even oral testimony may be probated.


And the 35 C.E.D. (West. 3rd), Vol. 35, states at p. 155-162, s. 179 that:


S. 179 Should the presumption be rebutted, the lost will may be admitted to probate upon proof of due execution, and evidence of its contents may be adduced by way of a copy or a draft, solicitor’s notes or other writings, or even by oral testimony.


[Emphasis added]


26 In this case, there is no evidence to identify the witnesses to the execution of the will nor is there any evidence to show that the will is a true copy of the original will. While the copy presented has all of the characteristics of a legitimate copy of an original will, on the authorities it cannot be presumed that the original was properly executed or that the copy presented is a true copy. The authorities require proof of both.


27 It may be that the necessary proof can be presented through means other than a witness to the execution of the will. For example, proof of the usual practice followed by a solicitor or legal assistant that a will was only “trued up” once it had been properly executed and compared to the original may be sufficient to show that it is in fact a true copy. But some evidence is necessary to establish the necessary facts and here there is none. There is no witness available or even identified to say that the will was properly executed nor is there anyone to attest to any other evidence to establish that the copy of will is a true copy as that term is understood in law. Even if the standard of proof is lower than a balance of probabilities there is an absolute absence of any evidence whatsoever in this case.


28 The applicant is therefore entitled to succeed on the ground that there is no evidence upon which the court can conclude that the will of the deceased was properly executed or that it is a true copy of the original will.


29 If that conclusion is incorrect and the will is in fact properly executed and a true copy of the original, the next issue is whether the original will can be traced to the possession of the deceased. If it can be traced to her possession then on a finding that the original has been lost, the presumption arises that it has been destroyed with the intention of revoking the will. Feeney in The Canadian Law of Wills, 3rd edition, vol. 1 at pp. 134-135 states:


The same presumption, that of destruction animo revocandi, that arises when a destroyed or mutilated will is found among the testator’s papers on his death, arises also when it is shown that the testator’s will was last traced to his possession but cannot be found on his death. The presumption is well recognized in Canadian case law, but the fullest inquiries for the lost will must be shown to have been made for a court to apply the presumption in the first place. The presumption is often rebutted either by the circumstances tending to show a contrary conclusion or by declarations made by the testator showing that he regarded the lost will as valid and subsisting. However, strong evidence is usually needed to rebut the presumption.


30 The beneficiaries under the will submit that there is no evidence to suggest that the deceased was in possession of the will. No one has said that the original will was ever known to be in her possession nor is there any reference in the affidavit material to a comment of the deceased that she had at any time had the original of her will in her possession. The deceased named her solicitor as the sole executor of her estate without any alternates and it is likely that the original at least initially remained in his possession. The beneficiaries also say that if the deceased was in possession of her original will, there was no need for her to keep a copy in a briefcase containing other important papers. See Haider v. Kalugin, 2008 BCSC 930(B.C. S.C. [In Chambers]), at para. 22.


31 On the evidence presented in this case, I am not able to find that the deceased ever had possession of the original will and therefore the presumption that the will has been destroyed with the intention that it be revoked does not apply.



32 On the evidence the applicant is entitled to a declaration that the deceased died intestate as there is no evidence that the copy of will presented in evidence was ever properly executed by the deceased or that it is in fact a true copy of will.