Renouncing as executor may not always be an automatic right

An interesting lesson for executors comes from the recent Saskatchewan decision in Goby v Frederick, 2020 SKQB 201

Wayne Frederick passed away. His will appointed his sister, Shirley Frederick, to be the executrix of his estate. Shirley obtained letter probate.

However, the only asset in the estate is a piece of land valued at $800. Moreover, the estate of Wayne Frederick owed a lot of debt. Shirley Frederick desired to therefore renounce probate. Shirley discovered that she could not transfer the land in the estate without paying for a valuation, which she said neither she nor the estate can afford.

Shirley Frederick desired to therefore renounce probate, and hoped the Public Guardian would assume the role.

Therefore, the issue in Goby v Frederick was whether an individual has the right to simply automatically renounce as executrix of an estate, after receiving Letters Probate.

The Court held no. An individual cannot renounce, unilaterally, as executrix, after receiving Letters Probate. The Court required that Shirley bring a formal court application to be removed as executrix, and that it be served on the public trustee in view of the minor beneficiaries. An affidavit by

Shirley Frederick was to accompany the application, setting forth evidence of her inability to administer the estate.

The lesson:

Persons who are named executors of problematic estates (i.e. ones with high debt, or whose administration may be difficult to carry out) should be sure that they wish to serve as executor.

Once an executor obtains letters probate, if you later decide you wish to renounce, you may need to go to the expense and time of a court application to do so.

James Steele’s preferred practise area is estate litigation, including will challenges, executor disputes, power of attorney issues, etc. Contact James Steele at 1-306-933-1338 or j.steele@rslaw.com. The above is for general information only. Parties should always seek legal advice prior to taking action in specific situations. 

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Area of Expertise Renouncing as executor may not always be an automatic right