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What defines a "fair" estate plan?

When planning for the distribution of assets in the future, it is common for individuals to aim for a "fair" and equitable arrangement. For some Ontario families, this simply means liquidating assets and splitting the proceeds among surviving children. For others, the choice is not so simple. Grandchildren, dependency, relationships and difficult assets like real estate and businesses can make it difficult to create an estate plan that is considered "fair" and reasonable to all in the family. Here are a few of the most important considerations.

Transparency with all beneficiaries is highly recommended when creating an estate plan. It is better to have discussions about one's wishes, even if they may not be pleasant or comfortable. Even those who believe their plans would be self-evident and do not see a reason for such a discussion should still discuss the details with children in order to avoid future conflict or misunderstanding.

While some people choose to distribute assets to children equally, others take factors such as financial need into consideration. If less financially well-off children will be receiving more than their wealthier counterparts, it is important to express this wish directly to everyone prior to passing away as it could cause tension if revealed after the fact. Grandchildren are also a factor which commonly influences distribution.

Another common consideration when aiming for a "fair" estate plan is a family home, cottage, business or other asset which one or more family members may prefer not to sell. This may or may not be possible depending on the number of beneficiaries and the other assets in play. Occasionally, estate plans may be incomplete, unreliable or otherwise flawed. In these cases, estate litigation is often required to sort out the situation under Ontario estate law. In these cases, it is important to involve a lawyer as soon as possible.

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