Or, as I heard yesterday, the grandmother clock. When you think of preparing a will, you are usually thinking about your money —however much or little money there is, and that, of course, includes the proceeds of the sale of assets such as your house. Your focus tends to be on making sure that the money is divided the way you want it to between your family members and other beneficiaries. However, it is my opinion that too little time is spent thinking about the non-monetary items – things like household furniture, jewelry, flatware, artwork, and even tools and fishing equipment. We call all of that ‘stuff’ Personal Effects, and they can actually be quite valuable, aside from the significant sentimental attachment.
It is extraordinary how much importance children, siblings, or other family members will place in Personal Effects that you might feel to be worthless, or simply not worth a fight. Here at Mann, we take the time to review with you the issue of distribution of Personal Effects. We want to know if you have canvassed with your family(ies) who might want what is in the house or cottage, or which items hold ‘special significance’ for one or more members of your family. Often, it is appropriate for you to consult with your family about ‘who wants what’ in order to avoid a fight after you are gone, and then reflect those wishes in your will. In other situations, it is better to decide yourself who gets what – to include what you want rather than what the kids might want. A lawyer can help you figure out whether discussion with your family is or is not appropriate under your circumstances.
We can make special arrangements in a will for the distribution of Personal Effects – a scheme of distribution, for example, such as assigning numbers to each beneficiary and have each take a turn in choosing an item until everything is gone – or providing for the sharing amongst family members of items that are important to everyone.
In summary, please don’t forget that what might seem valueless or unimportant to you may be extremely important to family members who survive you, and therefore well worth the effort of dividing up in your will.
This blog post was written by Ted Mann, a Partner in the Wills and Estates, Real Estate, Business and Bankruptcy teams. He can be reached at 613-369-0368 or at email@example.com.