Last week I wrote about a few things you can do to help protect your estate from unnecessary litigation after you pass away, including having a legally valid will. This week, I have a few more tips for you to ensure that your last wishes are heard.
5. Have a Will That is Hard to Vary
In B.C., the Wills Variation Act allows your spouse or children to have a will varied if it does not provide adequately for them. If you avoid unequal treatment in your will, you may be able to reduce any feelings that one child was treated unfairly. If everyone is treated equally, it is harder to argue that one child deserves a bigger share than another.
Equal treatment can be a tricky exercise if you have a blended family. You should put careful thought into how you will treat step-children and new spouses in your will. You may want to consider using a trust, and it is often a good idea to consider having a marriage agreement that spells out what sort of claim your current spouse will have against your estate.
6. Leave a Paper Trail
If you are going to treat a child differently, in any way, be sure to leave behind clear evidence of why you have made that choice. This explanation should be carefully written to address the relevant legal factors that a judge would consider when making their judgment. You should also leave detailed evidence, in writing, of any loans or gifts that you have made to children during your lifetime. If you are transferring your family business to one child and not all your children, you should do it by the book; consider selling the business to them under a clear written contract.
7. Choose Your Executor Carefully
Your choice of executor is very important. You should choose an executor that has some understanding of your assets and the sophistication to wind them up. Your executor will have to deal with and account to all of your beneficiaries, so choose someone who will be able to get along with everyone. Consider appointing an impartial executor who does not stand to inherit anything. Naming one child over the others can often lead to hard feelings and accusations of unfair dealing, and naming all of your children as joint executors can often lead to disagreements and stalemates.
8. Lay it all Out
The best plan is to start early and be as transparent as you can with your last wishes. Consider sitting down with your family now and explaining your final wishes in front of everyone. Often, when people are shocked by the contents of a will, they are more likely to believe that it was written under coercion or when the will-maker was not of sound mind. Your family will hopefully be less likely to dispute something that came straight from the horse’s mouth.
The information provided above is for educational purposes only. This information is not intended to replace the advice of a lawyer or address specific situations. Your personal situation should be discussed with a lawyer. If you have any questions or concerns, contact a legal professionalThe information provided above is for educational purposes only. This information is not intended to replace the advice of a lawyer or address specific situations. Your personal situation should be discussed with a lawyer. If you have any questions or concerns, contact a legal professional.