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Alberta Estate Litigation Early Intervention Pilot Project

On November 19, 2019 the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench announced a pilot project “intended to facilitate the orderly conduct and early resolution in estate matters.” The pilot project came into effect on January 1, 2020.

Essentially, after a claim is initiated a one-hour case conference can be scheduled before a judge. If one of the parties does not consent to the case conference that party much appear before the Court to make submissions justifying why a Case Conference is not warranted.

The Case Conference will seek to:

  • Clarify the issues requiring resolution;
  • Explore the possibilities for a non-Court imposed resolution;
  • Identify the appropriate forum (special application, summary trial or regular trial) in which to secure a Court imposed resolution if a non-Court imposed resolution is not feasible;
  • Establish the nature of the evidence which will be provided (affidavit and/or viva voce evidence); and
  • Explore the extent to which counsel have discharged their duty, pursuant to s.4 of the Wills and Succession Act, SA 2010 cW-12.2: (a) to discuss with their client alternative methods of resolving the matters that are the subject of the application, and (b) to inform their client of collaborative processes, mediation facilities and other justice services known to the counsel that might assist the parties in resolving these matters.

In Ontario, the Court has the authority to direct that a conference be held at any time under Rule 50. This can come from the request of a party or at the Court’s initiative.  This process is common in the Toronto Estates Court and is highly recommended early in the process.

Under the Ontario Family Law Rules a Case Conference is the mandatory first step in the court process. No motions can be brought before a Case Conference except in situations where “urgency” can be established.

There is no doubt that early case management is effective in controlling what can often be overly positional and expensive adversarial litigation processes.

It is noteworthy that the Alberta Pilot Project incorporates the duty of counsel to discuss alternative dispute resolution processes with clients and at the Case Conference those alternatives will be explored further by the judge.

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