Helen Low is Co-Leader of the Litigation and Dispute Resolution Group and a leading lawyer in Fasken’s Wills, Trusts, Estates and Charities Group. She assists clients with contentious disputes regarding wills, trusts, inheritances, powers of attorneys and elderly and incapable family members, as well as estate planning for both simple and complex estates with a goal to avoid post-death disputes. She has been litigation counsel on a broad range of cases, including: challenges to estate plans; variation of wills and trusts; abuse of powers of attorney and trustee breach claims; committeeship proceedings, asset disputes arising from undue influence, lack of capacity, joint tenancy and other transfers. Helen is consistently recognized by Best Lawyers in Canada, Martindale-Hubbell and Lexpert as a leader in estate law.
Helen also advises clients on estate and business succession planning, including drafting wills, trusts, marriage agreements and other personal planning documents to help business owners and families transfer their assets to their intended beneficiaries without future disputes. For 10 years, she was 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:
- varying wills where a child or spouse is disinherited or where there is unfair or unequal benefits given or defending the other beneficiaries from variation claims;
- proving or challenging the validity of wills, trusts or other estate planning documents;
- determining true beneficial ownership of joint bank accounts and other joint tenancy assets or beneficiaries designations made outside a will;
- obtaining court interpretation of wills, trusts and other legal 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;
- acting for and against attorneys related to financial abuse;
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 their compensation, tax filing obligations and accounting. She also acts for beneficiaries or heirs who have concerns about protecting their rights and entitlements from executors and trustees who are in breach of trust. Helen has handled complex estates involving assets in different provinces and countries and tax and legal issues arising from different jurisdictions.
Helen also acts on matters involving elderly, vulnerable or incompetent persons. She undertakes incapacity planning for elderly but competent clients, including appointing representatives and attorneys and making estate plans that can withstand legal challenge. She also advises on the protection of incapable persons, including obtaining court appointments of committees where necessary.
Helen is often consulted for guidance on both simple and complex estate planning required to preserve the client's inheritance wishes and to avoid future family estate disputes. She also helps clients transition their businesses to subsequent generations to minimize family dissension.
Helen drafts wills, alter ego trusts, joint spousal trusts and family trusts, deeds of gift and other planning documents to transfer assets to the intended beneficiaries in a manner that minimizes taxes and probate fees, preserves privacy and reduces the risk of future disputes and successful legal claims against the intended plan.
Advice to Charities
Helen advises charities and not-for-profits on a broad range of issues, including securing gifts and challenges to charitable gifts.
Helen has provided evidence to court as an "expert witness" in the area of estate law and is a regular speaker and teacher on wills, trusts and estate law in the legal community for lawyers and other professionals.