Michael Ford (post until Oct. 31/19)
Estates & Wills & Trusts

Smith brings cool head to estate litigation

Problem-solving is the name of the game for Toronto estate litigator David M. Smith

After more than two decades at the bar, Smith, partner with  Hull & Hull LLP, knows only too well the often-ugly realities of litigation.

“It’s not fun — there’s incredible expenditure, it takes a great deal of time and, in the end, litigation doesn’t always provide the best outcomes for clients,” he tells AdvocateDaily.com. “When you put yourself in their shoes, you can see it’s generally not a good investment.

“That’s why I try to be a problem-solver and look for settlement wherever it is possible,” Smith adds.

His approach is to dial down the emotion of the situation as best he can and provide a better environment for decision-making by clients.  

“My aim is to deliver objective, cool-headed advice,” Smith says.

Still, a trial is sometimes unavoidable.

“If it’s a matter of principle, or the other side is being unreasonable, you have to go to court,” Smith says.

For example, he recently acted with his partners Ian Hull and Suzana Popovic-Montag for the successful appellant at the Supreme Court of Canada in a long-running dispute over the proceeds of a life insurance policy between two former partners of the deceased.

“There was no other choice,” Smith says.

After graduating from Queen’s Law School, Smith was called to the bar in 1994, and initially practised commercial litigation.

However, his career took a momentous turn in 1997 when he began working with Rodney and Ian Hull and, the following year, joined them as an associate when they founded Hull & Hull LLP.

Within a few years, Smith had stepped up to partner as the firm transformed into one of the largest and most respected estate law boutiques in the country.

“There have certainly been big changes in the last 20 years,” he says.

Smith now practises exclusively in estate litigation, handling a variety of matters including will challenges, guardianship applications and contested passing of accounts on behalf of clients.

He also operates a mediation practice through Hull Estate Mediation Inc.

“I enjoy the opportunity to act as an impartial mediator between disputing parties, and it’s very satisfying when you can use your experience to help them reach a settlement,” Smith says.  

He has also acted as an instructor for the estates and trust portion of the Ontario Bar Admission Course and frequently delivers guest lectures for both the Law Society of Ontario and the Ontario Bar Association.

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