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North of 60 Series: Estate Administration in the Northwest Territories

I have been on quite the hiatus since last year!  I apologize – I have found that a wills and estates practice inevitably ramps up in the last month of the year on both the planning and litigation sides and last December was no exception.

In the middle of all of the usual pre-holiday madness, I managed to get called to the Law Society of the Northwest Territories.  I have always been fascinated by the Canadian North, and with Field having an office in Yellowknife, doing work in the Northwest Territories has been a goal for several years.  I am very excited to be expanding my estate practice north of the 60th parallel in 2018.

The “New” Estate Administration Rules

The expansion comes at a very opportune time, as the Northwest Territories completely revamped their Estate Administration Rules (the "New Rules") in January 2017, so I don’t feel too far behind.  Even better, the New Rules are based Alberta’s Surrogate Rules, so much of the content is quite familiar.  The New Rules are divided into three parts:

  1. Part 1 - Non Contentious Matters
  2. Part 2 - Contentious Matters
  3. Part 3 - Accounting

The New Rules are substantially similar to the Surrogate Rules, but not an exact copy.  For example, the New Rules allow for a summary process for administering small estates with a net value less than $35,000.  While case law interpreting the New Rules is sparse, the guiding philosophy behind the content and form of the Alberta Surrogate Rules will likely inform the interpretation in the future.  Some of the elements of the philosophy behind the Alberta Rules were desires to have:

  1. A comprehensive set of procedures that govern the administration of the estates of deceased persons;
  2. A system that was driven by the personal representative of an estate with Court intervention only when necessary;
  3. Some supervision of the personal representative that was not the Court; and
  4. A standard procedure to get issues heard by the court whatever the nature of the application, should court intervention be necessary.

The transitional provisions provide that the New Rules apply to all probate and administration proceedings, even if they were commenced before the New Rules came into force.  Based on my brief exposure to files that pre-date the current regime, it appears that the New Rules will make the administration of estates in the Northwest Territories significantly more efficient.

If you or a family member reside in the Northwest Territories and need help with applying for probate, administering an estate or dealing with an estate dispute, feel free to e-mail or call me at 867.669.8458 or visit our Yellowknife office in person.

Thank you/Merci/Mársı/Máhsi/Kinanāskomitin/Hąį’/Quana/Quyanainni/ᖁᔭᓐᓇᒦᒃ for reading!