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. 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:
- 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 on.
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 limits the risk of future disputes. She also assists clients in planning that limits the success of anticipated future 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 make charitable donations, establish new charitable 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 by Martindale-Hubbell and Lexpert as a leader in estate law.