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Estate planning for heirlooms can be emotional

Preparing a will can sometimes be an emotional affair. This is especially true when it comes to personal items and heirlooms. Choosing who should receive these items can be a very loving and exciting time, but it can also add some conflict to the estate planning process if family members disagree on the decision. People often ask how to avoid such disputes and whether Ontario law has any say in where such items end up.

Generally, Ontario law does not get involved in where heirlooms end up. The only exception to this is if the deceased has not met the mandated obligations to spouses and dependents. While it may be nice to bequeath one's own prized possessions to loved ones, this can lead to some contention over particularly beloved items.

One of the best ways to limit conflict over heirlooms is to clearly communicate wishes to each prospective beneficiary. When people communicate their plans clearly, they are able to answer questions about reasons for leaving certain items to certain people. This can help limit arguments about their intentions after they pass away. Listening to the concerns of family members regarding these plans and considering fairness where possible is also a good idea.

Ultimately, passing down heirlooms can be a highly personal undertaking and it might not be possible to fairly distribute all items. Those who prefer not to make these decisions themselves can create a system wherein each beneficiary chooses one item each until all are gone. An Ontario estate planning lawyer can help talk people through these options and ensure the proper documents are drawn up to enforce these decisions.

Source: theguardian.pe.ca, "Heirlooms are personal and you can generally leave your estate to whomever you want", Dick Young, March 19, 2018

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