Building Legacies that Last Estate Planning and Elder Law

Will Challenges in Canada

Bigstock-Family-Couple-Relationships-Cr-5604405[1]Contests over wills are increasing in Canada just as in the U.S. Despite there being several ways to successfully contest a will, it is not an easy thing to do.

Part of the population in the U.S. has seen continually rising wealth in the last few decades, while other parts of the population have not. In the process, one trend has emerged and that is that there are more wealthy estates that people deem worthy of fighting over.  As a result, more wills are being contested in court by those who do not believe they have been left the inheritances they deserve.

The U.S. is not alone in this trend. The same thing has been happening in Canada, as The Globe and Mail reports in "Left out of the will? Here are your options."

The options for challenging a will in Canada are very similar to those in the U.S. There needs to be a good reason why the court should disregard the will and distribute the estate differently.

A common reason is by citing undue influence. That is the allegation that someone has inappropriately influenced another who has diminished capacity of some sort to create a will for the benefit of the influencer. It is not an easy case to prove, but it is possible to do so.

In the U.S. and in Canada, not just anyone can challenge a will. Only people who have a financial interest of some sort in the estate can make the challenge.

If you want to challenge a will, the first thing you need to do is visit an estate attorney. The attorney can evaluate your claim and let you know whether it is a good idea to proceed with a challenge.

Reference: The Globe and Mail (Feb. 26, 2018) "Left out of the will? Here are your options."


David Cassidy’s Will

David Cassidy is the latest deceased celebrity to have cut one of his children out of his will. 458px-The_Partridge_Family_David_Cassidy_1972 (1)

David Cassidy was once a well-known figure, who starred on the TV show "The Partridge Family" and had many adoring teenage fans of his music.

Many people still recognize his name.  However, it has been a long time since Cassidy was able to profit from his former fame.

He recently passed away with an estate valued at only $150,000, which is a low amount for someone who once made as much money as Cassidy did.

The details of his will have been made public.

Cassidy chose to cut out his daughter, so she will not receive an inheritance from him, according to the Los Angeles Times in "David Cassidy cut daughter Katie Cassidy out of his will."

It had previously been acknowledged by David Cassidy that he had never had much of a relationship with his daughter. She was raised by her mother and stepfather and rarely saw her father.

David regretted this and the two reconciled before he passed away.  However, Katie was specifically excluded from her father's will.

David's son and brothers will instead inherit his modest estate. We probably do not need to have financial concerns for Katie, because she is famous in her own right as an actress on the TV show "Arrow."

Katie Cassidy likely does not need the inheritance.

This is becoming something of a trend in recent celebrity estates. Many have chosen to disinherit some of their children for various reasons.

A fight over the estate is unlikely in this case.

Reference: Los Angeles Times (Dec. 7, 2017) "David Cassidy cut daughter Katie Cassidy out of his will."

Tennessee’s Cowan Rule

MP900202201[1]In most states, to completely disinherit a child in a will, parents have to mention the child and specifically disinherit him or her. Otherwise, it is presumed that the child was left out by mistake. Tennessee has an exception to the rule.  Likewise, in Maryland, a parent must explicitly state an intent to disinherit a child to do so and should proceed with the advice of a Maryland estate planning attorney.

  1. Don Brock, the late CEO of Astec Industries, wrote many wills over the years. He executed new wills in 1994, 1998, 2006, 2012 and 2013. His first three wills all did different things with regard to his five adopted children.

They were given various amounts of money or cut out from receiving anything in the different wills. The last two wills did not mention the adopted children at all. They claim that was done by their stepmother, in order to preserve the assets of Astec Industries for herself.

The children filed a lawsuit against the estate, but lost in the lower courts. The Supreme Court of Tennessee has now agreed to hear their case, according to the Times Free Press in "Tennessee Supreme Court agrees to hear J. Don Brock estate challenge."

The main issue in this case is a 110-year-old decision by the Supreme Court of Tennessee that created what is known as the Cowan Rule. It limits the ability of potential heirs to challenge a will, if they were not mentioned in the previous will.

The adopted children lost in the lower courts because they were not mentioned in the 2012 will. The rule makes some sense.


Merely having the 2013 will ruled invalid would not create an inheritance for the children,  since it would just validate the 2012 will, unless it is also successfully challenged.

However, this is not how other states handle disinherited children.

In other states, it is presumed that if a child is not mentioned in a will at all, it was a mistake and the child can challenge the estate, regardless of what an older will might state. In Maryland and DC, the will should explicitly disinherit.  Contact a Maryland estate planning attorney or DC estate planning attorney in order to successfully disinherit a child.

Reference: Times Free Press (March 21, 2017) "Tennessee Supreme Court agrees to hear J. Don Brock estate challenge."