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Navigating Inheritance Disputes Between Siblings

Inheritance is the distribution of a person’s property, including their debts and obligations, upon death. Typically, inheritance usually passes from an older generation to a younger generation. 

In Ontario, the person that transfers the inheritance out of the estate is known as the estate trustee, and the person who receives the inheritance is known as the beneficiary. 

Beneficiaries can be anyone including family members of the deceased, friends of the deceased and even entities such as nonprofit organizations and charities. The estate trustee is the only person with the legal power to manage or distribute the estate of a person who passed away with a will. 

What is an Inheritance Dispute?

An inheritance dispute can result from a variety of factors and can involve a disagreement between beneficiaries about how the estate should be divided. An inheritance dispute between siblings can create tension in a family resulting in unwanted stress in an already difficult time.

How to Navigate Inheritance Disputes Between Siblings

When dealing with inheritance disputes between siblings, there is often a way for the parties to come to a peaceful resolution amongst themselves. However, where this is not possible, it is best to consult a lawyer with experience in dealing with estate planning and dispute resolution matters.  

Consult an Estate Litigation Lawyer

Often a properly planned estate will prevent disputes between beneficiaries but in cases where there has been a mismanagement of assets or unfairness in the distribution of the estate, contacting an experienced estate litigation lawyer will help you navigate the dispute process. At Epstein & Associates, we have experience in estate planning and estate litigation that will be beneficial to helping you understand that matter before you and to guide you through the dispute process. Inheritance disputes can be costly, time-consuming and create divisions within families. Our expert estate litigation lawyers will help you come to the best resolution possible.

Peaceful Negotiations

Finding a way to peacefully resolve inheritance disputes between siblings is often the most desirable route. There are a variety of ways you can go about resolving disputes between siblings. Your lawyer can help you determine which method will be most appropriate given your dispute. Two of the most common ways to peacefully resolve inheritance disputes between siblings are to involve a mediator or to liquidate assets. With both approaches, our estate litigation lawyers would be able to assist you.


When it comes to inheritance disputes between siblings, the hope is often that a solution can be found without involving the courts. Mediation is the most popular method of resolving disputes outside of the court. Under the Rules of Civil Procedure, 75.1 mediation is mandatory in estate disputes in certain parts of Ontario including Toronto, Ottawa and the Country of Essex. 

Mediation involves a mediator who is an independent third party who will help both parties negotiate a solution. A mediator is chosen by beneficiaries and will impose a decision. Mediation provides the opportunity for those in dispute to negotiate a flexible solution.

Consulting a lawyer experienced in estate litigation is beneficial before the mediation process starts in order to better understand your rights and to ensure the proper representation of your concerns.

Liquidating Assets

Depending on the reason for the dispute between siblings, inheritance disputes can sometimes be resolved by agreeing to liquidate the estate assets and then dividing its value amongst the beneficiaries This is particularly useful when the dispute between siblings results from an unequal division of assets in an estate. By liquidating assets and dividing the value amongst the beneficiaries, siblings can achieve an equal division in their inheritance.

Court Procedures

Sometimes when inheritance disputes arise between siblings, a solution cannot be negotiated outside of the court. There are three common procedures used in Ontario to resolve inheritance disputes. These include the passing of accounts, applications, and trials. Each procedure has its own purpose when it comes to inheritance disputes. When involving the court in inheritance disputes, you should consult an experienced estate litigation lawyer to represent you throughout the process.

Passing of Accounts 

In Ontario, estate trustees are not required to provide beneficiaries with an account of the estate, they are only required to maintain the accounts. The process of passing accounts involves the disclosure of details about the administration of the estate including the assets recovered, liabilities, income generated, fees, and the distribution of the estate. An estate trustee may decide to willingly pass accounts or may be compelled by the courts to pass accounts. This is a complex process that requires a court order to compel the estate trustee to pass the accounts.

The passing of accounts may be useful in inheritance disputes between siblings when there is concern that an estate trustee did not act fairly in distributing the inheritance. By issuing a court order for the passing of accounts, the judge will review accounts and determine which aspects to allow, disallow or modify. This may provide siblings with a better outcome if they feel that the deceased’s account was mismanaged or dealt with in a dishonest manner. 


Applications in estate planning are often used when there is a specific issue that needs to be resolved. Applications can be used to provide clarification or an interpretation of the will or estate by the court. For example, in inheritance disputes, applications may be useful when it comes to understanding who is defined as a “child” and whether this includes a “step-child”. An application can give the estate trustee guidance when making decisions about the administration of the estate.


Trials are often used in estate planning when there is an issue of credibility in the estate. This may result from a perception of undue influence where someone believes the deceased was unduly influenced by someone. This may be useful in sibling disputes if one sibling believes another one had undue influence on the deceased, thus affecting the deceased’s intentions under their will. A trial is a lengthy and potentially expensive process. Having an experienced lawyer to represent you will help ensure the best possible outcome from the trial.

When it comes to navigating inheritance disputes between siblings, there are a variety of ways they can be resolved. An experienced estate litigation lawyer can help you understand your options and the best path to take going forward.


This blog is made available by the law firm publisher, Epstein & Associates, for educational purposes. It provides general information and a general understanding of the law but does not provide specific legal advice. Any specific questions about your legal concerns please contact us now and speak to an expert today.