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Family conflict can end in estate litigation

There are many things that can affect the execution of a will. The issue that lawyers, family trust officers and accountants say is the biggest threat to estate planning is family conflict. Without considering this issue and effectively communicating plans, many Ontario estates can get caught up in estate litigation.

Part of the reason family conflict is such a big issue is the diverse relationships. Blended families, ex-spouses and children from previous relationships can all complicate the estate planning and execution process. This is especially true when miscommunication and lofty expectations enter the mix.

It is a good idea for estate planners in Ontario to address conflict head-on, rather than letting it simmer until they are no longer around to answer questions. Part of this process is putting plans in writing by creating a will. Another part is having conversations about how the will is structured and why, so no one feels like their interests were not considered.

While most people try to draft a fair estate plan, fairness doesn't always mean assets are split evenly. For example, a business owner could choose to leave business-related assets to those children who are working with them, even if the business is worth a bit more than the remaining assets for the other children. While this is not an equal distribution of wealth per se, it may be seen as fair by the estate planner. However, when this is not discussed, delays and even estate litigation can be caused by disgruntled beneficiaries. It is a good idea for estate planners and, later, their executors to connect with a lawyer to clarify Ontario estate law and make sure everyone gets what they are entitled to.

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