The Even-Hand Rule


If you are acting as an executor, it is important to remember the even-hand rule: unless the Will says otherwise, the executor must treat all of the beneficiaries equally (i.e. with an even hand).

The even-hand rule is not always straightforward because different beneficiaries may receive different interests in the estate.  Consider a case where Beneficiary A has a life interest in an asset and Beneficiary B receives the remainder of that asset when Beneficiary A passes away.  The executor must maintain an even hand between the two beneficiaries.  Practically speaking, it is not a straightforward task.  How does the executor treat two unequal interests equally?

In Flaska Estate, Re, 105 A.C.W.S. (3d) 990 (Ont. S.C.J.), for example, the Court held that the executors did not maintain an even hand between a life tenant and a remainderman when they invested the entire estate in fixed income investments.  As a result of their investments, the executors failed in their duties to the life tenants to maximize the interest income available to them.  In other words, the executors failed to act with an even hand because they did not pay equal consideration to the interests of all beneficiaries.

The even-hand rule arises in other situations as well.  Therefore, an executor (or other trustee for that matter) must remain cognizant of the rule.