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Case Review: Pinard et al v. Gilchrist et al

Heard in the Fall of 2021, Pinard et al v. Gilchrist et al, 2022 ONSC 415 (“Pinard v. Gilchrist”), a recent decision out of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, highlights the obligations an estate trustee has to beneficiaries.

Jean Pinard (the “Deceased”) died testate on December 13, 2017. Yvonne Gilchrist (“Gilchrist”), the Deceased’s daughter and a beneficiary under the Deceased’s 2017 Will, alleged, among other things that her brother and appointed Estate Trustee, Roland Pinard (“Pinard”), failed to provide proper accounts and/or particularize the assets of the Estate upon her request. As a result, Gilchrist filed a motion for an order for particularization of assets and passing of accounts by the Estate Trustee. For a comprehensive “Summary of Facts” please see Rasaiah J’s summary beginning at paragraph 25.

The Deceased provided for a total of $130,000 in bequests and approximately $226,000 in designated accounts held at Edward Jones. Of that $226,000, $125,466.24 was held in a joint account passing to Gilchrist by right of survivorship. Pinard, the Estate Trustee and sole residual beneficiary under the 2017 Will, claimed that the joint account was an asset of the Estate that remained in Gilchrist’s hands through a technicality (namely, that the final necessary consent from Gilchrist to sever the joint nature of the account was not received prior to the date of death). Pinard argued that the Deceased made clear through her own notations that the joint account was always to form part of her estate (with Gilchrist to receive only $50,000).

On reading Pinard v. Gilchrist, it is easy to get swept up in the arguments, for example, how as sole residual beneficiary, Pinard stands to personally benefit from including the joint account as an asset of the Estate, and how it appears that if not for Gilchrist’s withholding of consent, the Deceased would have included the joint account as part of the Estate. However, the chaos surrounding whether the Deceased meant for the joint account to form part of her Estate and whether Pinard stood to benefit from same did not distract Rasaiah J from the main questions, being: “What are beneficiaries entitled to by way of documents/and accounting; what is an Estate Trustee required to do/produce”?

The Court held that, given the circumstances, Gilchrist had both standing and good reason to request the particularization of assets and accounting, and Pinard had no grounds upon which to deny her. Pinard v. Gilchrist provides a good overview of the law vis-à-vis passing of accounts and obligations of Estate Trustees to keep proper accounts and records. With respect as to whether the joint account formed part of the Estate, it will be interesting to see if any further litigation stems from the Parties as they navigate the remainder of the issues between them.

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