In Letourneau v Summers, the court examined the factors required to remove an estate trustee when there is an intestacy.
The Applicant was the 82-year-old mother of the Deceased. She was the sole beneficiary of the Deceased’s Estate. The Respondent was the Deceased’s brother and the Applicant’s son.
The Respondent’s appointment as the estate trustee without a will was originally on consent but the Applicant quickly became disillusioned with her son’s administration of the Estate.
The Respondent ignored the Applicant’s requests for updates on the Estate’s administration, he never provided her with an accounting of the Estate’s assets, and did not advise her of decisions effecting the Estate, including delaying the listing the Deceased’s house for sale. Further, there was evidence that the Respondent placed his own interests before the interests of the Estate’s beneficiaries, including claiming he was a creditor of the Estate.
The court noted that when a beneficiary seeks the removal of an estate trustee, the wishes of the testator, including their choice of estate trustee should not be interfered with lightly. However, on intestacy, the Deceased’s wishes are not a factor. As such, given the distrust the Applicant now had of the Respondent and evidence that the Respondent breached his fiduciary duties, the court ordered his removal.
This case is a reminder that when family members act as estate trustees, they should always be mindful of their fiduciary obligations, including the obligation to report and account to the beneficiaries. The standards are not lower or more flexible simply because the beneficiaries are family members. A list of the estate’s assets and liabilities, a fulsome inventory, and an accounting of estate’s assets are always required.
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