A certain item you own may be of special significance to a loved one. Make sure you know who is most attached to the possessions you will leave behind.

Gifts from the heart

By  Quentin Schesnuik, Catholic Register Special
  • November 7, 2015

As the warring sisters prepared for their final battle, both failed to recognize that their parent’s estate was the wrong place to wage their final fight.

The two sisters were fighting over two porcelain faced dolls that had formed a part of their parent’s estate. The one sister argued that both dolls were for her while the other said that it was supposed to be one doll each. This nasty battle was preventing the estate, which was very sizeable, in the millions of dollars, from being completed. Since both sisters were fairly affluent in their own right they were not afraid of legal bills. Neither would give ground on the issue. Eventually, it was ruled that as the estate was to be divided equally between the two sisters, the two dolls were to be included in the division. The one who had both dolls was told by the court that she had to give one of the dolls to the other sister.

Two weeks later the other sister received her doll in the mail. When she opened the box she found the doll inside. The problem was that its face had been smashed into bits. She could never prove that her sister had smashed it as it was possible that it had been damaged in transport.

Travelling throughout the Archdiocese of Toronto and giving estate planning presentations in parishes, Catholic Cemeteries and to various lay groups, parishioners frequently share with me their personal stories. Some stories are wonderful. Others are not so wonderful.

Another story I heard was about a young lady. After her grandmother`s funeral, everyone in the family thought she’d gone crazy when she asked to be handed her dead grandmother’s knife.

The reason she wanted it, she explained, was that when she was a little girl, she used to bake bread with her grandmother. She would help her grandmother measure all the ingredients, knead the dough and then watch and smell the delicious bread as it baked in the oven. Her grandmother was always very kind when they made bread together. Never getting annoyed if flour was spilt on the floor or if clean clothes got messy. When the bread was done, her grandmother would let her cut it with her big bread knife. Gently taking her little hand in hers as they cut the bread together. As a little girl, it was the only time she was allowed to touch a knife. She told her family that she hoped to have the bread knife because it reminded her of the time she spent with her grandmother. When she told this story to her extended family everyone wanted her to have it and shared in her joy when she received it.

We frequently attach memories to objects. These two stories highlight this fact.

One thing you may want to consider when making your Will is asking your family if there are certain items you have that they are attached to. Of course you do want to make an itemized list of everything you own. That is not the point. What you want to find out is if there are any specific items your loved ones may be attached to. This may help to ease their loss after you pass away.

By having this conversation now, it may be possible to avoid any disputes later. Funerals should be a time that bring families together, not tear them apart.

(Schesnuik is manager of planned giving and personal gifts with the Archdiocese of Toronto.)

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