• Unjust enrichment occurs when a person unfairly receives a benefit at the
expense of another person, and there is no “juristic reason” for that benefit.
• It is based upon the concept that a person should not be able to keep a
benefit received from another when it is against conscience for him or her
to keep the benefit.
Definition and Terminology
• In Canada, a person must prove three critical components to support a claim
of unjust enrichment:
1. that the defendant received a benefit;
2. that the claimant suffered a loss or deprivation that corresponded with
that benefit; and
3. that there was no “juristic reason” for the defendant’s enrichment.
• The term "juristic reason" continues to be of some debate. However, the idea
is that there is no legal or other valid reason for the defendant to retain the
benefit and/or for the claimant to be deprived of the benefit.
Unjust Enrichment Claims
• Unjust enrichment claims are common in estate litigation.
• When a person provides services or benefits to another during his or her
lifetime, and, after the death of the recipient of the services or benefits, is
• excluded from the deceased’s estate plan; or
• does not receive what he or she was expecting (and/or promised) in
exchange for the benefits provided
… that person may be able to make a claim against the deceased's estate
on the basis of unjust enrichment.
• The estate may be considered to have been "unjustly enriched" at the
expense of the claimant.
Enrichment and Estate Litigation
• Monetary Awards and Proprietary Awards are the two main remedies
awarded in cases of unjust enrichment.
• The court will typically first consider whether money would sufficiently
remedy the unjust enrichment in the circumstances.
• Where the claimant can demonstrate a direct link between the loss to him
or her and the corresponding benefit to the defendant or another type of
causal connection (meaning that the benefit would not exist had it not
been for the claimant's contributions), a court may grant instead an
interest in the disputed property or benefit itself. This is known as
a proprietary award.
Remedies for Unjust Enrichment
• Unjust enrichment is a type of claim that may be available on its own or as
part of a proceeding that seeks relief against an estate (or another party) on
a number of different grounds.
• While its principles may seem basic, the law of unjust enrichment is
complicated. For more information regarding unjust enrichment, it is
advisable to contact an estates lawyer.