Garton & Harris

4 things to leave out of a will if you want to prevent conflict

The death of a loved one can leave friends and family devastated. People can be struggling with grief and sadness; some may feel lost or alone. Adding a controversial or confusing will to the mix can make the situation even more upsetting because it can create a complicated legal environment that loved ones must navigate.

Jilted or angry parties could wind up contesting the will, which can create even more conflict and possible delays in the property distribution process. To prevent this, will-makers can leave the following out of their will:

  1. Unpleasant surprises – A will is likely not the best place to reveal unpleasant surprises. Matters like true parentage, extensive property losses or grievances can be especially disturbing to people who are already struggling with a death. Such news could increase the likelihood of fights and legal battles. Therefore, reconsider using a will as a weapon or way to break bad news to family.
  2. Unequal gifts – There are many reasons people may want to leave unequal gifts to children or other heirs, but you could be creating more problems than you might solve. Unequal gifts can make it unnecessarily complicated to administer an estate. Further, it can create or exacerbate strain among beneficiaries. And in British Columbia, unfair gifts could be the basis on which someone can contest a will.
  3. Confusing terms – Leaving anything open to interpretation can result in clashes among beneficiaries. To prevent this, make sure your wishes and conditions are clear and direct. Provide an explanation in your will or to your lawyer if you worry that something may be misconstrued.
  4. Controversial requests – Estate executors already have a lot to manage when it comes to fulfilling their duties, and most parties are committed to carrying out a decedent’s wishes properly. Requesting something controversial, hurtful or even unlawful puts them in a very uncomfortable position. Consider carefully what you are asking someone to do when you include problematic requests in a will.

Leaving these elements out of a will can make the administration process less painful and thorny.

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