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Is it the Right Time to Settle That Estate Dispute?

Apr 03, 2020

By: Howard Black, Partner – Wills and Estates

Howard Black - Wills and Estates MediationThe current situation has caused many of us to take a hard look at what is really important in our lives and what values we wish to emulate. Family, friends, and other personal relationships are at the forefront of our considerations. There are, indeed, a number of “silver linings” to the present nightmare, if one wishes to look for them.

Just over the last week or so, I have been privy to several situations in which my clients, opposing parties, and/or opposing counsel have shown an increased desire and willingness to engage in discussions around estate litigation matters, looking at possibilities for settlement. Perhaps, this is just one of the “silver linings” that comes as a consequence of us having to endure the daily news, and, for some of us, truly reflect on what is a priority.

Is that longstanding dispute with your brother, your sister, your stepparent, or stepchild that important that it is worth pursuing? Or, on the other hand, does the potential financial gain (or loss) at issue pale in comparison to life’s more lofty goals and values?

As you are likely aware, the Court system in Ontario (as well as in other jurisdictions), while at a complete halt, is nevertheless significantly hampered in its ability to deal with pending litigation matters, unless they are of a critical or urgent nature. There are very few estates cases that would fall within this category. Even when the Courts are able to fully re-open, can you just imagine the backlog in matters scheduled to be heard?

Now is the opportunity to seriously consider whether it is all worth it or, if you are currently involved in a dispute, whether you would prefer to put an end to it and move on with your life.

There are many ways and models to help work towards an eventual settlement. In addition to direct negotiation, either between the parties or through counsel, there are a number of “alternative dispute resolution” mechanisms available to help navigate the way towards a resolution. In the very near future, I intend to provide greater details concerning some of these opportunities.

For now, I am suggesting that you simply sit back, take stock of your life and the lives of those about whom you care the most, and ask yourself the question: Is it the right time to settle that estate dispute?

Howard Black is a senior partner and chair of the Minden Gross LLP Wills and Estates Group. His practice includes estate litigation, estate planning and administration, drafting and administering wills and trusts, and advising on capacity issues. Howard is also a skilled estates mediator and arbitrator, with an LLM in Alternative Dispute Resolution from Osgoode Hall Law School. Contact Howard at