What About Grandpa’s Old Cane?

Real estate and financial assets are usually the focus of an estate plan, but we often overlook items of emotional value. When we think about “who gets what” when developing an estate plan, we can forget to consider tangible assets that might not have an easily determined financial value.To some family members, the emotional value can equal or outweigh the financial value – from the family cottage to grandpa’s old cane. And unfortunately, disputes over the emotional value of items that may seem insignificant can cause the greatest discord within a family.

Address “emotional value” assets up front. Dealing with the emotional element of assets will be unique for each family because family dynamics will differ. There are, however, three common steps that everyone should take to address this issue.

  1. Have a conversation
    Don’t leave it to your executor to work out the division of personal or emotional items. Some of the most destructive estate battles have been over personal items. The best way to avoid hurt feelings and disputes after you are gone is to have the conversation with your heirs while you are alive.
  2. Decide on a strategy
    Based on the outcome of the conversation, decide the best way to deal with these items. You could trust the goodwill of your heirs and leave it to them to decide after your death. For example, write down your wishes in an informal memo that you mention in your will. Or deal with specific items and assets in your will to avoid potential conflicts you think might emerge.
  3. Take action
    Once you’ve determined a strategy, take whatever action is needed to put it in place. One advantage to an informal, non-legally binding strategy (such as a written memo or tagging items with the names of intended recipients) is that you can make changes easily at any time, without requiring a lawyer.

For a smooth estate settlement, think ahead
Determining the distribution of non-financial assets while you are alive could be the most important action you take to ensure a smooth, conflict-free settlement of your estate when you are gone. A BMO Harris Private Banking professional can play a key role in coordinating and carrying out the planning process – and help reduce the chances of a family dispute.

All opinions and estimates contained in this communication constitute Bank of Montreal’s,  BMO Trust Company’s and/or BMO Harris Investment Management Inc.’s judgment as of the date of this communication, are subject to change without notice and are provided in good faith but without legal responsibility.

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The comments contained herein do not constitute investment advice or advice in the areas of legal, accounting, or tax. It is your responsibility to consult with the appropriate professionals in those areas either independently or in conjunction with this assessment process. The comments included in this publication are not intended to be a definitive analysis of tax applicability or trust and estate law. The comments contained herein are general in nature and professional advice regarding an individual’s particular tax position should be obtained in respect of any person’s specific circumstances.