Rancher loses claim to grazing access after Cherryville land owner dies

Loses battle over grazing

A rancher's claim to grazing access on the North Okanagan property of a deceased friend have been dismissed in court.

William Welsh died on March 23, 2021. In his will, he left his Cherryville property to beneficiaries Mark and Elizabeth Shewchuk.

He also left $20,000 to Eric Massot, who had grazed livestock on the North Fork Road property for more than 20 years.

In an April 26 decision in BC Supreme Court, Justice Dennis Hori dismissed Massot's claim to an interest in the land for the purposes of continued grazing.

Massot continued to graze his animals on the property after Welsh's death, and was served with a letter in November 2021 demanding that he remove the livestock.

Massot refused to comply and claimed the right to graze his livestock on the property under a long-term agreement with the deceased. But, he eventually removed the animals and farm equipment on May 2, after police became involved in the dispute.

He then took his claim to court, alleging an agreement that defendants verbally consented to.

However, Mark Shewchuk, the executor of the will, denied the claim, and the judge said the plaintiff presented "vague evidence of a previous will. However, he is unable to provide a copy of any previous will or to provide any specific details of it. If the plaintiff claims that the previous will specifically gave him an interest in the property, then there is no evidence of such a bequest."

As well, Massot is not a member of the deceased's family and has no standing to challenge the will.

Hori noted the plaintiff had registered no agreement on use of the property under the Land Title Act, and even so, one would not bind subsequent owners.

While Massot may have lost the case, Shewchuk did seek court approval to discharge the $20,000 to Massot that was mentioned in the will, minus $500 damages.

However, Hori said the matter should be kept separate from the land issue and the court should not be an intermediary in the deceased's estate. Massot made no claim for the money in his grazing suit.

"The estate accounts and the defendants' damages award are and should remain separate. The deceased's estate has obligations to the plaintiff. It should satisfy those obligations directly with the plaintiff. Similarly, the plaintiff has obligations to the defendants. He should satisfy those obligations directly with them," Hori ruled.

The judge also found the defendants entitled to court costs.

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