This article is sponsored by Mann Lawyers.
Estate litigation is a legal area covering a broad range of potential concerns and disputes, requiring caring attention and a team of lawyers with experience addressing a wide range of issues.
Made up of lawyers from its existing commercial litigation, civil litigation, family law and estate planning and administration groups, the newly formed estate litigation group at Mann Lawyers applies this resident knowledge and expertise to representing the interests of its clients in contentious or non-contentious litigation matters.
Heather Austin-Skaret, a senior estate litigation team member and co-managing partner, brings 25 years’ experience in estate planning and administration. E. Jane Murray has focused the last 25 years of her practice on estate and family litigation matters, and is a highly respected mediator/arbitrator in both of these areas, as is Greg Ste. Marie.
Chris McLeod brings significant experience in commercial litigation as well as in estate disputes, bolstering the team’s civil litigation experience.
Austin-Skaret recently shared her insights into the new practice area at Mann Lawyers:
Q: Why has the firm put together a formal estate litigation group now?
Heather Austin-Skaret: Mann Lawyers had the collective expertise. The experience was there, the drive and commitment to our community was there, and the crossover into litigation was a natural next step.
Q: What types of cases does the team have the expertise to deal with?
Austin-Skaret: We are ready to address capacity assessments or disputes, claims relating to estate administration, Consent and Capacity Board work, contested wills, dependant support claims, guardianship applications or disputes, passing of accounts, power of attorney disputes, trustee disputes, and variations of trusts. And we offer mediation and arbitration. Our estate litigation team members continue to provide the same kind of careful and prompt advice that is the hallmark of our services in the estates and wills group, across eastern Ontario.
Q: What do you recommend your clients do if they have an estate dispute or otherwise require assistance?
Austin-Skaret: Because estate litigation is complex and covers a range of disputes and needs, the answer will depend on the specific circumstances. That being said, timely recognition of and reaction to procedural rules and legal issues is important, as is access to a skilled and experienced lawyer. No matter the issue, the most important thing people can do is get good advice, and get it quickly.
Q: How has COVID-19 impacted the estate litigation practice group at your firm, or estate litigation generally?
Austin-Skaret: The pandemic has not stopped the hard work of our lawyers involved in these matters, and mediations and negotiations have carried on. There was some initial delay when the courts postponed a number of appearances that our estate litigators had, but those are now coming back onto the schedule and we have continued with guardianship applications and discoveries on a remote basis. No question, the pandemic has caused some delays in all types of litigation, but we continue to make progress and all of our lawyers have had experience with the new “remote reality” that COVID requires, handling mediations, discoveries and court appearances by telephone or Zoom.