WESA: What if a Will overpromises and the Estate under delivers?
Estate litigation is often comprised of multiple parties focusing on how the proceeds in an Estate are to be distributed. However, a circumstance that can arise is when a testator “over-promises” in their will and when they pass, their Estate has insufficient funds to deliver on all the gifts. The Wills, Estates and Succession Act has a specific section that deals with Estates wherein the assets are not sufficient to satisfy the bequests made in the will. Section 50 of WESA states:
50 (1) This section is subject to a contrary intention appearing in a will.
(2) If a will-maker’s estate is not sufficient to satisfy all debts and gifts, the debts and gifts must be satisfied or reduced in accordance with this section.
(3) Land charged by the will-maker with payment of debts or pecuniary gifts, or both, is primarily liable for the debts and gifts, despite a failure of the will-maker to expressly exonerate the personal property.
(4) Land and personal property must be reduced together.
(5) Subject to subsection (3), assets are reduced in the following order:
(a) property specifically charged with a debt or left on trust to pay a debt;
(b) property distributed as an intestate estate and residue;
(c) general, demonstrative and pecuniary legacies;
(d) specific legacies;
(e) property over which the will-maker had a general power of appointment.
This means that testator who is concerned that they may not have enough property to satisfy their bequests can make an explicit statement in the will which would trump the scheme as set out in section 50.
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