Helen Low practises primarily as a wills, estates and trusts lawyer. She assists clients when contentious disputes arise in respect of wills, trusts, inheritances, powers of attorneys and elderly and incapable family members. She has been counsel on numerous wills variation claims, trust variation applications, committeeship proceedings, joint tenancy and other asset transfer disputes and other estate disputes. Helen can resolve these matters through negotiation, mediation or litigation. She also advises clients on estate planning, business succession planning, including drafting wills, trusts, personal planning documents and other agreements, to help families and business owners transfer their assets to their intended beneficiaries without future disputes. Since 2007, she has been an adjunct professor at UBC’s Faculty of Law teaching wills and estate law. In 2014, Helen was appointed Queen’s Counsel to recognize her expertise, reputation and contribution in the profession.
Helen acts as litigation counsel on all estate-related matters including:
- claims to vary wills when disinheritance or insufficient provision is involved;
- claims to challenge an alleged will or trust or to prove their validity;
- claims to challenge joint bank accounts and other joint tenancies or designations falling outside a will;
- proceedings to obtain court interpretation of wills and related documents; applications to vary or wind up a trust;
- claims for compensation for services provided based on unjust enrichment and quantum meruit or for executors’ fees;
- claims for accounting and repayment by trustees and other fiduciaries who have abused their position, including those acting under a power of attorney;
- applications to remove an executor or trustee or to compel them to account to the beneficiaries.
Helen regularly advises executors, administrators and trustees on the proper administration of an estate, will or trust, and on all issues that arise from that office, including tax filing obligations. She also acts for beneficiaries or heirs who have concerns about protecting their rights and entitlements, and for persons who are excluded from an estate to assist them in securing a benefit.
Helen also acts on matters involving elderly, vulnerable or incompetent persons. She undertakes incapacity planning, including appointing representatives and attorneys where appropriate and obtains court appointments of committees where necessary.
Helen is often consulted for guidance on estate planning and can implement both simple and complex plans to preserve the client's inheritance wishes and to avoid future family estate issues. She also helps clients transition their businesses to subsequent generations.
Helen drafts wills, alter ego trusts, joint spousal trusts and family trusts, deeds of gift and other arrangement documents to transfer assets to the intended beneficiaries in a manner that minimizes taxes and probate fees, preserves privacy and limits the risk of future disputes. She also assists clients in planning that limits the success of anticipated litigation within families.
Advice to Charities
Helen advises charities on a broad range of issues, including challenges to charitable gifts. She advises directors and officers of charities and not-for-profits and also works with clients who wish to establish new charitable entities, foundations and not-for-profit organizations.
Helen has provided evidence to court as an "expert witness" in the area of estate law, and is a regular speaker on wills, trusts and estate law in the legal community.
Helen is consistently recognized by Best Lawyers in Canada as a leader in estate law.
Honours and Awards
- The Best Lawyers® in Canada 2009-2016 for Trusts and Estates
- Canadian Legal Lexpert® Directory 2013-2015 for Estate and Personal Tax Planning (Estate Litigation)
- Appointed Queen's Counsel, 2014
- Martindale-Hubbell® 2014 BV® Peer Review Rated ™
- Current Director, Canuck Place Children's Hospice
- Current Director, People's Law School of British Columbia
- Former Director, BC Children's Hospital
- Former Vice-Chair and Director, BC Child and Family Research Institute, the research arm for BC Children's Hospital
- STEP Canada, Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners
- Estate Planning Council of Vancouver
- CBA, Canadian Bar Association, Wills and Trust Law, Elder Law and Health Law Sections
- CAGP, Canadian Association of Gift Planners
- Canadian Association of Law Teachers
- Adjunct Professor, University of British Columbia, Faculty of Law, “Succession Law” Course (2007 to present)
- Former Adjunct Lecturer, University of Simon Fraser, Global Asset and Wealth Management MBA program, “Tax and Estate Planning” Course
- Former Member, Succession Law Reform Project of the BC Law Institute, leading to the proclamation of the 2014 Wills, Estate and Trusts Act (WESA) of British Columbia
- Former Member to the BC Health Care and Care Facility Review Board
- Former Inquiry Officer to the BC Expropriation Compensation Board