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The importance of discussing estate planning

There are a number of reasons that Ontario residents might put off discussing estate planning with their heirs. In addition to the discomfort that some people feel when talking about their own mortality, many are also concerned about raising issues related to estate planning, like inheritances, dividing a family business and distributing heirlooms. Some parents have the concern that if they tell their children they stand to inherit substantial assets, they may not put as much effort into establishing a career.

While the reasons for avoiding these discussions are understandable, putting off these talks can cause problems in the future. If heirs and family members are told the reasoning behind how estate planning documents are set up, it can keep heirs from fighting after someone passes away as well as prevent legal action from being taken. Legal battles can take years to play out, and they are often costly as well.

When someone is ready to talk about these issues, it can be helpful to choose a good time and setting and to think about whether to have the discussion one-on-one or in a group. It may also be a good idea to determine how much will be shared with family and heirs ahead of time if more than one person was involved in creating documents, such as in the case of married couples.

Another way to prevent problems for heirs is to ensure that estate planning documents are set up properly. If these documents are not kept up to date and do not comply with Canadian law, it can create a host of issues that may lead to probate, which can cause years of delays in executing someone's wishes. An estates lawyer can help ensure that these documents are in order.

Source: The Globe and Mail, "How to discuss your estate plan with heirs (and why it's critical to do so)", Tim Cestnick, July 09, 2014

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