Sister of former Canucks owner frozen out of their mother’s will, lawsuit says

VANCOUVER — A sister of former Vancouver Canucks owner Arthur Griffiths is alleging she has mostly been frozen out of their mother’s will.

Mary Louise Priebe, one of four children of Emily Gertrude Griffiths, who died in January 2019, is making the claim in a lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.

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She says in the notice of civil claim that the gross value of her mother’s estate is unknown, but she believes it to be about $12 million.

In an email, she said that the purpose of her lawsuit was to achieve equity with her two brothers and one sister.

“I don’t want to create any family rifts, but I do want fairness and I trust that my siblings want the same thing.”

Wesley Mussio, a lawyer for Priebe, said that the lawsuit was not a squabble among the siblings but merely an effort by his client to get fair treatment. He said that he had communicated with Arthur Griffiths and the former NHL team owner was taking no position on the case and had expressed sympathy toward his sister.

The mother prepared a will dated July 11, 2014, and a trust that provides that the trustees are to create four different trusts for the children. Probate was granted in July last year.

The trust will give $2,250,000 plus one-quarter of the remainder of the trust property to be held on certain terms each to Priebe’s brother Frank and her sister Emily and another $940,000 to Arthur Griffiths. Priebe gets $1,000 plus one-quarter of the remainder.

“The defendant trustee has stated that the offset between the plaintiff and the defendant children is because of a benefit the plaintiff received from the deceased,” says her lawsuit.

“The plaintiff denies any such benefit and no evidence to establish same has been provided by the defendant trustee to the plaintiff despite repeated requests for the explanation.”

Asked to clarify, Priebe said in her email that the matter concerns a misunderstanding her mother apparently had about a transaction many years ago.

“She must have forgotten that similar transactions were entered into with my siblings but in different contexts, so there may have been confusion on her part that I received an advantage over the others when I did not.”

The lawsuit says that the trust terms applying to Priebe’s share of the residual of the estate are “onerous” and provide complete control to the trustee despite Priebe’s age and maturity and allow the trustee to pay no or very little money to her during her lifetime.

“To date, the defendant trustee has refused or neglected to pay any reasonable monies to the plaintiff under the trust terms, or at all,” says the suit.

“Overall, the plaintiff is receiving unequal and unfair treatment from the deceased under the will and in the trust.

In the result, the will and trust do not make equitable provision for the proper maintenance and support of the plaintiff.

“The deceased therefore did not meet her moral obligation under the law to her daughter, the plaintiff.”

Priebe is seeking a court order for the will to be varied to adequately provide for her and for the trust to be terminated, in whole or in part, as it relates to her and for monies to be distributed to her in a lump sum payout.

Frank Griffiths Sr., the husband of Emily Gertrude Griffiths and the father of the four children, bought the Canucks in 1974. He died in 1994. Arthur Griffiths acquired control of the franchise in 1988 but was forced to sell the team in 1997.

There has been no response filed to the lawsuit, which contains allegations that have not been tested in court. The defendants, including Solus Trust Company Limited, the executor of the estate, could not be reached.

— Keith Fraser, Vancouver Sun

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