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Family discussion about estate plan could avoid disputes

Having a frank and open discussion with your adult children about your estate plan may feel uncomfortable, but it can be an excellent way to diffuse future tensions, says Toronto trusts and estates lawyer Mary Wahbi.

Wahbi tells AdvocateDaily.com that if an adult child understands the rationale behind a parent’s plan and is given an opportunity to discuss it, it may alleviate disputes that could occur after the parent passes away.

She says a family meeting, conducted in a respectful way with opportunity for discussion and exchange of ideas, is more likely to result in children respecting their parent’s wishes and eliminating disputes.

“Furthermore, it can be clarified in a family meeting that this is in fact the parent’s plan and not the plan of one of the siblings who has influenced the parent,” she says.

She says the family meeting can be conducted with a number of parameters in place, including open and frank discussion where each person is given an opportunity to participate. She says this family meeting can even be mediated with a professional.

“Many of my clients don’t ultimately have the family discussion because they don’t want to be involved in what they think may be an unhappy discussion,” says Wahbi, partner with Fogler Rubinoff LLP.

“In those cases, I still strongly recommend to the client that as a minimum, we include in the will itself their rationale for the estate plan so that it is clear to their children what their thoughts are,” she says.

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