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How even careful planners can leave families in estate litigation

Many think that conflict over an individual's estate primarily occurs if someone does not leave a plan behind. But, the truth is, even those who feel they have a fairly solid estate plan in place can lead their families down a road to litigation by missing some important points. To avoid such issues, Ontario estate planners should ensure their will not only exists, but that it is up-to-date, detailed, and legally sound.

Regularly updating a will is critical to help families avoid litigation later. If one gets married, has children, gets divorced, acquires a major asset, or sells a major asset, it is important to update plans. What if a will leaves one child with money and the other with property, yet the property has been sold? What if an ex-spouse is incorrectly maintained as a beneficiary? There are many things that can go wrong when a will is not updated properly.

In addition to being up-to-date, a will must also be detailed. Small items with sentimental value can often be just as contentious as big-ticket items in estate administration. Being clear about who gets what, even with things that don't have high monetary value, can prevent fighting down the line.

In addition to the above measures, it is important that Ontario planners ensure their will is legally binding. It is also a good idea to make sure banks are aware of the named beneficiaries to avoid holdups with administration. Those who do find themselves in a conflict that may require estate litigation should reach out to a lawyer to understand the process and options available.

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