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EXECUTORS AND ADMINISTRATORS - Duty to account

Friday, June 04, 2021 @ 5:44 AM  


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Appeal by a beneficiary’s estate from a chambers judge’s refusal of an accounting by the estate of the beneficiary’s mother. Prior to his passing, Franklin was a beneficiary under his mother’s will with his three siblings. The parents were shareholders in a family business and intended their children to become equal shareholders in the business. The mother’s will made certain dispositions of real property and gifts to her grandchildren. The residue was divided equally between the four siblings. One child, Dorothy, was named as executrix. The will was not probated. Over time, changes in the ownership of shares of the family business were implemented with the goal of equal ownership between the siblings. Franklin passed away approximately three years after his mother. His son Christian was the administrator of his estate. Christian raised concerns regarding Dorothy’s handling of the mother’s estate due to Dorothy’s alleged refusal to provide him a copy of the will and concern regarding the sufficiency of distributions. Christian filed a CPL against the family business and applied for, among other things, an accounting of the mother’s estate. The chambers judge declined to order an accounting on the basis there was no evidence of misconduct in the administration of the mother’s estate. Franklin’s estate appealed.

HELD: Appeal allowed. Under the clear wording of s. 55 of the Trustee Act, a beneficiary was entitled to an accounting as a matter of course on making a reasonable request. The beneficiary had no obligation to show cause or present a justification for that request. The duty to provide the accounting was consistent with and reflected the fundamental nature of the relationship between beneficiary and trustee. Here, it was entirely reasonable for Franklin’s estate to request an accounting given that the mother’s estate was not probated, the refusal by Dorothy to provide Christian with a copy of the mother’s will, and the concerns raised regarding the particulars of certain payments, distributions and asset holdings. Dorothy was ordered to provide Christian with an accounting of the administration of the mother’s estate.

Bryant Estate v. Stuart, [2021] S.J. No. 152, Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, R.G. Richards C.J.S., N.W. Caldwell and J.D. Kalmakoff JJ.A., April 7, 2021. Digest No. TLD-May312021009