Suspicious Circumstances When Making a Will
You may believe that because a will meets British Columbia’s validity rules, that it must be accepted by the court. But what happens when the “technical” aspects of the will’s creation add up, but something still doesn’t seem right? Here is what you need to know about suspicious circumstances when a will is made.
What Suspicious Circumstances?
When a will is presumed valid, the family of the deceased may feel like they have limited options in wills variation. However, the presumption of validity can be disputed by evidence of suspicious circumstances surrounding the creation of the will.
In bringing a case of suspicious circumstances, those trying to uphold the validity of the will must prove that the will-maker had the capacity, knowledge, and approval over the will’s final form.
In determining suspicious circumstances, the court is able to consider a variety of factors including:
- the physical/mental decline of the will-maker;
- changes made to the will towards the end of the testator’s life, including during periods of extreme sickness;
- extreme changes in the personal affairs of the will-maker inconsistent with past behavior or the nature of family relationships;
- involvement of beneficiaries in the will-making process, specifically beneficiaries taking control of the decision-making or where dependence on beneficiaries influenced the will-maker’s decision-making; or
- complete isolation from others.
Bhalla Estate, 2017 BCSC 1867
The British Columbia Supreme Court case Bhalla Estate, 2017 BCSC 1867 is a dispute regarding suspicious circumstances.
Mrs. Bhalla, the deceased, could not speak English, and could not read or write in any language. The solicitor was someone Bhalla has often communicated with through other family members and friends who would serve as interpreters.
The will in question was submitted for probate and named one of Mrs. Bhalla’s three daughters as the executrix, with the entirety of Mrs. Bhalla’s estate going to the executrix’s son.
Bhalla’s two other daughters challenged the validity of the will on the grounds of suspicious circumstances, claiming that:
- no one was able to say with certainty who was Mrs. Bhalla’s interpreter at the time the will was executed, and
- the sister/executrix, whose son was the sole beneficiary, may have been the interpreter at the time of the will’s execution.
However, the grounds of suspicious circumstances were not based on concrete evidence. Additionally, the solicitor could not recall who the interpreter was on the day of the will’s execution. Accordingly, the court ruled that the will’s validity remained intact.
Claiming suspicious circumstances is not enough to vary a will. But if you believe suspicious circumstances are the root cause of concern in your loved one’s will, we can help.
Suspicious Circumstances? Call Klein Lawyers.
If you believe you have a claim for suspicious circumstances, call us today. We will review your case and help you determine the path to move forward.
Contact Klein Lawyers at (604) 874-7171 today for a free, confidential case evaluation. Our wills variation lawyers serve clients throughout British Columbia from offices in Vancouver, Abbotsford, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Langley, and Surrey.