It is usual or proper for an Estate Trustee to send beneficiaries releases or waivers and ask the beneficiaries to sign the release and/or waiver before they are given their inheritance.

Although it is reasonable for the Estate Trustee to request a release be signed before a distribution is made, such a request, to be acceptable, must be accompanied by a statement or advice to the beneficiary that they can decide not to sign the release in which case the Estate Trustee will proceed to have their accounts approved by the Court. It is during the process of approving the accounts before the Court, that a beneficiary can raise the concerns that made the beneficiary decide not to sign the release.

The Courts in Ontario have made it clear that to withhold payment or delivery of an inheritance in order to require a release from the beneficiary is improper. Therefore, it is not proper for the Estate Trustee to say: “sign the release or you will not receive your inheritance” or to effectively do so. The Estate Trustee should ensure the beneficiary receives their inheritance whether the beneficiary agrees to sign a release or not.

If you have questions about a release that you are asked to sign before you can receive an inheritance, speak with a lawyer.