The topic of matters associated with death is never a pleasant one. The passing of a relative dear to your heart is a far consideration to many, even when it appears imminent and unavoidable.
There is a natural aversion to accepting the certainty of death, and a fear of becoming obsolete. Both instances invariably lead to the failure to plan ahead of the organized transfer of assets to loved ones.
The passing of my own mother shed a more personal light on the orderly distribution of assets in the event of death; something I admittedly viewed more as a legal process laden with steps than an intimate one of engaging with siblings to sort it all out.
I experienced first-hand the result of our mother’s refusal to prepare a will in advance of losing her competence; establishing the proper process between 6 siblings – after the fact – while grieving, was challenging. It was overall a rewarding experience and we were able to achieve a fair result, but it could have gone very wrong, and sadly, it often does.
In the best of scenarios, a good relationship between the beneficiaries leads to discussions powered by trust and the strengthening of existing relationships. On the other hand, prior animosity between the beneficiaries obliterates trust, resulting in heated conflict and even worsening of rifts between beneficiaries.
I strongly advocate the necessity of carefully preparing a will when your competence is not in question: you can then make your wishes known to your loved ones and why not say it, those who have fallen off your list, when you can do so validly.
When preparing your will, consider the following of many possibilities:
a) Will the division be done in accordance to sentimental value or fair market value;
b) Will it be done equally in the number of items of personal interest to each of the beneficiaries; or
c) Will it yet be done unequally in accordance to the deceased’s view of who she/he wishes to benefit;
d) Will the division be in accordance with the nature of articles (crystal, silverware, dinnerware) and then subdivided by value;
e) Where there gifts made by the deceased by way of verbal promises during his/her lifetime;
f) Will it be done leaving it to chance as in a raffle, or picking after drawing straws.
In brief, a carefully planned will and a schedule outlining the manner of distribution in advance is the best alternative to minimize hurt feelings associated with the division of assets. A will not only ensures that your wishes are carried out but most of all, it can make or break the enduring relationship between your beneficiaries.
Claudia Falquez- Warkentin, Lawyer