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Divorce and farms can cause estate administration challenges

A business, land and property, and changes in marital status can all add challenges to estate planning. For some Ontario families, all three issues are involved in their wealth planning and estate administration. With the rise of so-called "grey divorce," many farming families with large amounts of land and business assets have had to change their estate plans later in life. Neglecting to do so, or missing a step, can make for particularly difficult estate administration.

Separations can often spell the end of a family business. For farming couples later in life, this can mean the end of a legacy both individuals hoped to pass onto their children. The easy answer of selling everything and splitting the profits may not bode well should there be a child or children intent on inheriting the business.

There are some solutions. For example, divorced couples can jointly own assets. Or, alternatively, the couple could create an agreement that makes it impossible for the other partner to sell his or her share in the farm so long as children are involved in the operation. Separating farming couples also face other concerns shared by their still married counterparts, such as how to create an estate plan that is fair to nonfarming children.

While divorce lawyers are often consulted for the majority of issues related to marriage and separation, an Ontario lawyer who focuses on estate planning may be the best point of contact when it comes to changing wills in light of a marriage ending. It is important that wills be changed as soon as possible when a change in marital status is occurring, especially if one wants to remove their former spouse as a beneficiary. Further, children may wish to consult a lawyer to get clarity on estate administration and unclear or contestable wills.

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