Wills are created, in part, to leave your remaining possessions as you wish to family and friends after you pass. However, shortcomings within the will, such as a lack of specific instructions, are only realized after the testator has passed away.
In a recent article in The Globe and Mail, one man remembers how the lack of clarity in his mother’s will drove some of his family members apart after her passing.
A Cautionary Tale
According to the article, the mother of a business consultant in Ontario left behind a will that divided her multi-million-dollar estate between her surviving family. One family member was granted access to her account, and withdrew a large amount of her money. The business consultant adds this family member was encouraged to do so by the member’s spouse. Because of this action, a rift was created amongst some surviving family members, and have chosen to no longer communicate with each other.
The business consultant reflects that his parents would be devastated by the family’s breakdown of communication.
The article then outlines a few different choices the business consultant mentioned he would try with his own will. One idea is to give two individuals authority over an account – one family member, one lawyer. This would help reduce the likelihood of anyone abusing their rights when accessing estate accounts.
Another idea mentioned is to have a family meeting while the testator is alive. This way, the testator, the beneficiaries and the lawyer can all discuss the will and work through any issues or shortcomings with everyone present.
Disputes Among Family Members
When there are grey areas in wills, there is a higher chance of surviving beneficiaries fighting over how the estate should be administered. Because the parties are often siblings or related family members, the disputes may cause their relationships to deteriorate. An estate litigation lawyer can offer advice on how to best salvage these relationships when resolving estate disputes.