Father Named Personal Representative of Former Partner Who Died in Airplane Crash

Egal v. Shafat, 2020 ABCA 50 involved an appeal of a chamber judge’s decision appointing the respondent as personal representative of an estate.

A plane crash resulted in the death of a mother and daughter, Sofia and Ms. Odowa, both of whom died intestate. The father of Sofia was appointed as Personal Representative of the estate of Ms. Odowa, for the purpose of representing her estate in ligation resulting from the place of crash.

Sophia’s father and Ms. Odowa had never married and were living separately at the time of the crash.

The father applied for a limited grant of administration “as a party interested in the estate”, which the appellant, who was grandmother of Sofia and mother of Ms. Odowa, opposed.

The Law on Grants for Administration

The Court at paragraph 6 summarized the applicable law on grants for administration of an estate as follows:

6    The Estate Administration Act, SA 2014, c E-12.5 governs grants for administration of estates. In the case of a person who dies without a will, s 13(1) provides, in material part:

13(1) On application for a grant, unless the Court orders otherwise, the priority to be given to an applicant for a grant is, . . .
(b) if no will exists, as follows, in descending order of priority: . . .
(i) to the surviving spouse or surviving adult interdependent partner; . . .
(v) to a parent of the deceased person; . . .
(ix) to a person who has an interest in the estate because of a relationship with the deceased person . . .

Section 15 applies to special circumstances and provides, in material part:

15(1) If because of special circumstances the Court considers it to be necessary that . . .
(b) a person other than the personal representative determined in accordance with section 13 be appointed to administer the property of a deceased person,
the Court may, on application and on the notice that it directs, issue a grant to the Public Trustee or some other person as the Court considers appropriate.

Chamber Judge’s Decision

Pursuant to the legislative scheme, at chambers, counsel for the grandmother argued she had priority for appointment as the parent of Ms. Odowa. Counsel for the Respondent argued the Court had authority to step away from the priority scheme, and that such discretion fit in these circumstances. The father had authority for the position, as he was the father of Sophia, and might end up with first priority for the position if found to be an adult interdependent partner.

The chambers judge accepted the father’s argument and granted the father’s application for a limited grant of probate.

Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal upheld the chambers judge’s decision. The Court noted that while the grandmother had a higher priority, a Court had discretion to depart from the priority scheme listed in s 13 under special circumstances.

The Court agreed that the father was the more appropriate person to be appointed as personal representative, because as the custodial parent of the beneficiaries of the estate, he had an interest in maximizing the value of the estate through litigation arising from the airplane crash.

This case provides an example of when the Court may depart from the priority scheme listed in s 13 of the Estate Administration Act of who may apply for a grant of administration.

If you have any questions regarding applications for a grant of administration, contact one of the estate litigation lawyers at Kantor LLP. We are happy to answer questions. 

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