In DeContiis v DeContiis Estate 2023 BCSC 2163 , a wealthy father of seven boys did six wills between 1997 and 2009 which the plaintiff sought to be produced in order to determine the deceased true intentions re his estate planning.
The deceased left a last will, January 2016, which disinherited one son entirely.
In 2019. The deceased established an alter ego trust in which he put substantial assets.
The plaintiff sought and was granted production of the previous six wills of the deceased in order to determine the deceased true intentions re his estate planning
The plaintiff argues that s. 62 of Wills and Estate Succession Act, S.B.C. 2009, c. 13 supports production of the prior wills. Section 62 states:
62 (1) In a proceeding under section 60, the court may accept the evidence it considers proper respecting the will-maker’s reasons, so far as may be determined,
(a)for making the gifts made in the will, or
(b)for not making adequate provision for the will-maker’s spouse or children,
including any written statement signed by the will-maker.
(2) In estimating the weight to be given to a statement referred to in subsection (1), the court must have regard to all the circumstances from which an inference may reasonably be drawn about the accuracy or otherwise of the statement.
[The amended notice of civil claim at para. 53 of Part 3, Legal Basis, asserts that “prior wills, executed before 2016 and without the undue influence of the Younger Brothers, included the Plaintiff as a beneficiary”.
Based on these paragraphs of the amended notice of civil claim alone, the defendants ought to have listed the prior wills in their initial list of documents because they are material.
The prior wills are squarely at issue because the court considers prior wills where a will or other estate planning documents are challenged.
The prior wills are relevant to the claim of undue influence because they will disclose how the deceased treated the plaintiff in the prior wills which would be an indication of Innocenzo’s attitudes toward Ivano over time.
In Jung v. Poole Estate, 2021 BCSC 623, the trial judge analyzed the deceased’s attitudes towards his disinherited children by, in part, examining the terms of the prior wills (paras.
51 to 52) and Geluch v. Geluch Estate, 2019 BCSC 2203, in which the trial judge considered prior wills as evidence of the deceased’s prior wishes that were inconsistent with the impugned final will (para. 117).
Rule 7-1(11) requires listing and production of documents that “relate to any or all matters in question in the action”. The test for such disclosure is whether the documents “may enable a party, directly or indirectly, to advance their own case or damage that of their adversary, including documents that may fairly lead to a train of inquiry having either consequence”: Richter v. Richter Estate, 2023 BCSC 105 at paras. 57 and 58.
In Westman v. Westman, 2000 BCSC 236, the trial judge referred to the history of the deceased’s prior wills as indicative of an “inter-family phenomenon” (at para. 34) that was relevant to an assessment of whether the will made adequate provision for the deceased’s spouse. In the present case, the analogy to “inter-family phenomenon” is the changing attitudes Innocenzo had to each of his sons. The prior wills are relevant to this issue.
in Kobzos v. Kobsoz Estate, 2019 BCSC 2254, the documents relating to the deceased’s estate planning were relevant for production.