In a recent Alberta decision, the court put an end to a long-standing dispute between siblings over their mother’s estate after two of them asked for an accounting over a $99 deposit.
Alberta Rules Relating to Frivolous Claims
The Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta can dismiss frivolous claims where it determines that a claim is essentially an abuse of the court process pursuant to s. 1.4(2) of the Alberta Rules of Court, which states in part:
1.4 (2) Without limiting subrule (1), and in addition to any specific authority the Court has under these rules, the Court may, unless specifically limited by these rules, do one or more of the following:
(a) grant, refuse or dismiss an application or proceeding;
(b) set aside any process exercised or purportedly exercised under these rules that is
(i) contrary to law,
(ii) an abuse of process, or
(iii) for an improper purpose;
(c) give orders or directions or make a ruling with respect to an action, application or proceeding, or a related matter;
(d) make a ruling with respect to how or if these rules apply in particular circumstances or to the operation, practice or procedure under these rules;
(e) impose terms, conditions and time limits;
(f) give consent, permission or approval;
(g) give advice, including making proposals, providing guidance, making suggestions and making recommendations;
(h) adjourn or stay all or any part of an action, application or proceeding, extend the time for doing anything in the proceeding, or stay the effect of a judgment or order;
(i) determine whether a judge is or is not seized with an action, application or proceeding;
(j) include any information in a judgment or order that the Court considers necessary.
Mother Dies Intestate
The mother died in 2012 unexpectedly. Her husband had pre-deceased her and she died without a will.
Because she was intestate, her three children had an equal right to the administration of her estate.
The mother’s only assets were bank accounts and a house.
Animosities between the siblings had existed for some time.
Siblings Go to Court Over Mother’s Estate
Eventually, one of the mother’s daughters applied for sole administration of the estate, which was opposed by the son and the other daughter. The daughter was appointed nonetheless and she began to administer the mother’s estate.
However, the animosity continued, and the son and the other daughter believed that the daughter was not dealing with the estate appropriately.
The siblings, therefore, found themselves in court numerous times between 2013 and 2021. At one point, the son and the other daughter attempted to remove the daughter as administrator, but their request was denied.
Siblings Back In Court Over Bank Accounts
In 2021, the siblings were back in court over the mother’s bank accounts.
Despite the fact that the mother’s home had been sold in 2015 and most of the accounts had been resolved, the son and the other daughter went to court again, seeking clarification over a deposit of $99 into one of the mother’s bank accounts in 2017.
Although that account had been closed since 2017, the son and the daughter continued to request broad disclosure of financial information ordered.
Court Reviews Siblings’ Estate Litigation History
The court began by reviewing the litigation history between the parties. At the outset, the court made the following observation:
“In reality, there was, by September 2017, no reason for there to be any monies payable by anyone to the Estate. [The mother] died in 2012. Her only assets were bank accounts and a house. The house was sold in 2015, and the sale proceeds have been fully accounted for. The […] bank accounts have also been fully accounted for, at least for the period after [the daughter] was appointed Administrator. There is no reason to think (and certainly no information provided by anyone) that there were other assets other than the ones the parties have been fighting over since [the mother]’s death.”
Court Puts an End to Estate Disputes Between the Siblings
After reviewing the case history, the court acknowledged that there was a possible issue over the undocumented $99 deposit and another issue involving the withdrawal of $383 from a bank account that had not fully been explained by the daughter.
However, the court then stated:
“Disputes over such small amounts have no place in this Court. There are far too many important matters that should not be delayed by the Court spending its limited time and resources on trivial matters. While [the daughter] has not accounted perfectly for her activities since June 30, 2015, there is no information before me to suggest that she should be required to do more than she already has done regarding the passing of accounts. Any further work, by her or by the Courts in receiving and reviewing any further information or submissions, would be completely disproportionate to the magnitude of any possible failings.”
Accordingly, the court ordered the continuation of the stay of proceedings in the matter. It further stated that the daughter would not be required to take any further action with regard to accounting for the estate.
Additionally, the court stated that no further legal steps would be allowed for any of the parties without leave of the court.
Finally, the court stated:
“I do not encourage the parties to continue their disputes in Court. From my extensive review of the Court file from its beginning, I am satisfied that the parties have nothing to gain by continuing their fight.”
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