Just over a year ago, I wrote about the decision of the B.C. Supreme Court in Scurek v Scurek 2020 BCSC 450. In that case, the Court considered whether a testator could discharge his moral obligation to his adult daughter by benefiting her sons instead of her. In other words, can you “skip” a generation, and leave your estate (or some part of it) to your grandchildren instead of your children? My previous post can be found here: https://www.bcestatelitigation.ca/wills-variation/skipping-your-children-and-leaving-your-estate-to-your-grandchildren-the-court-may-vary-your-will/
In Scurek, the deceased had two adult children, a son and a daughter. His daughter (the plaintiff) had two sons, the deceased’s grandchildren. Rather than dividing his estate equally between his two children, the deceased decided to leave one half of his estate to his son, and the other half of his estate to his daughter and her two sons in equal shares. As a result, the daughter received a 1/6 share instead of a 1/2 share
The trial judge varied the will to provide as follows: ½ to the plaintiff, 2/6 to the brother, and 1/12 to each grandchild.
Last week, the B.C. Court of Appeal allowed the brother’s appeal of this decision, in Scurek v. Scurek 2021 BCCA 178.
The Court of Appeal observed that while wills variation claims by adult independent children are challenging, they had no difficulty concluding that the will did not provide adequately for the plaintiff. Some variation was required. However, the Court held that the trial judge should not have varied the will such that the plaintiff would receive more than her brother. This would impinge upon the testator’s autonomy to an unnecessary degree.
Instead, each of the grandchildren was to receive a 1/12 share (as awarded by the trial judge), and then the plaintiff and her brother were to receive equal shares of the remainder (i.e. 5/12 each). This result is consistent with a reasonable expectation that children ought to share equally in a parent’s estate. However, it should be kept in mind that there is no requirement that children be treated equally. A court will not necessarily vary a will to remedy unequal treatment of children. Again, every wills variation case must be decided on its own unique set of facts.