When it comes to distributing assets and fulfilling final wishes upon death, high-valued items are often at risk of becoming most contentious. But, it is important for Ontario executors to consider that value can extend beyond the financial and also include emotional impact. Sentimental items, even those with lesser value in the marketplace, can be a significant cause of issues in estate administration. Here are some tips for executors who may be handling these touchy situations.
First, it is important for beneficiaries to be on the same page about the contents of a will early on. If possible, these conversations should take place while the owner of the sentimental items is still alive. However, if this isn’t possible, bringing people together at the beginning to raise certain items of particular significance and negotiate what they may like can avoid conflict later down the line.
If multiple beneficiaries are interested in a particular item, family auctions or lotteries may be an option. Family members could also take turns, based on a randomized order, picking items they might want. If an executor is considering such an option, legal counsel is advised to ensure the system is not contested.
Fairly splitting assets is not always an exact science. People have differing priorities, interests and emotional connections with material items. Thankfully, Ontario law does have standards to guide some of the challenging estate administration issues that may emerge. Working with a lawyer to understand the correct process and to inform the best way forward under provincial estate law is a good idea.