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Can a Non-Lawyer Estate Trustee and Potential Sole Beneficiary of an Estate Represent the Estate in a Civil Claim?

In the recent decision of Estate of Nikolaus R. Holz and Ellen I. Holz v. MTO, 2023 CanLII 78859 (ON LT), the Ontario Land Tribunal considered the issue of whether a non-lawyer estate trustee who is the potential sole beneficiary of his parents’ estates (the “Estates”) could personally represent the Estates as claimants in a civil claim.


Expropriation was performed by the Minister of Transportation for the Province of Ontario (“MTO”) on real property owned by the Estates.

In response, Mr. N.H, the appointed estate trustee for the Estates and apparent sole beneficiary, advanced a claim against the MTO for compensation under the Expropriations Act.

Despite failing to name himself as a party to the proceedings, Mr. N.H. took the position that, as the sole beneficiary of the Estates, he essentially owned the Estates such that he was entitled to “self-represent” in his personal capacity without having to obtain legal representation.

Mr. N.H’s Inability to Represent the Estates and the Requirement for Licensed Representation

Considering first the procedural impediments to Mr. N.H.’s argument that he be entitled to personally pursue the claim, the tribunal found that Mr. N.H.’s failure to name himself as a party to the proceeding prevented him from pursuing the claim in his personal capacity.

Considering Mr. N.H’s position as the sole beneficiary and “owner” of the assets of the Estates he is essentially entitled to act in person and self-represent, the tribunal, amongst other things, considered rule 15.01 on the Rules of Civil Procedure which provides that:

Where Lawyer Is Required

15.01 (1)  A party to a proceeding who is under disability or acts in a representative capacity shall be represented by a lawyer.

(2)  A party to a proceeding that is a corporation shall be represented by a lawyer, except with leave of the court.

(3)  Any other party to a proceeding may act in person or be represented by a lawyer.

[above emphasis added]

On the basis of rule 15.01(3), the tribunal concluded that despite Mr. N.H.’s potential yet currently undefined status as the sole beneficiary of the Estates, the Estates hold he real property in question, and can only be represented by a lawyer as a party to the within proceedings.

This decision speaks to the eagerness of potential beneficiaries to assume legal ownership and control over otherwise undistributed estates and/or estate assets, and the representation of estates in the context of our legal system.


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