If you have an item of sentimental value, make sure you provide clear instructions on how it is to be distributed. CNS photo/Francis Mascarenhas, Reuters

Things often forgotten in an estate plan

By  RHONDRA SOGREN, Catholic Register Special
  • November 9, 2023

People often overlook items of sentimental value during estate planning, and this oversight can lead to disagreements and relationship-ending issues.

Instead, you should consider providing direction for property of high emotional value and provide clear instructions on how it is to be distributed.

When Roberto Goodman passed away in 2018, an unfortunate battle broke out between Goodman’s wife and his children from previous marriages. The centre of the dispute wasn’t about money but rather over his gold cufflinks that had been worn at his wedding and other special occasions. Despite the existence of a detailed Will, the cufflinks and other personal property with sentimental value were not explicitly addressed.

The story of Goodman’s estate is not unusual. Although often overlooked during estate planning, personal property is a frequent cause of disputes. These fights can be long-lasting and end up tearing families apart. It may be helpful to sit down with your loved ones and discuss how you are planning to distribute your personal property. Often you may be unaware of the value that family members attach to specific items; jewelry, antiques, clothing, furniture and various collections are valuable pieces because of the memories attached to them.

So You have Hidden a Couple Things………

If you have hidden things, you may want to let a loved one know or even your Estate Trustee. While landscaping the family’s yard, my family and I came across various pieces of gold jewelry: it turns out that our aunt, who had passed away a year before, buried them under a mango tree! We would not have known otherwise. So if you plan to do any “special” gardening, you may want to inform someone.

Including Burial and Funeral Wishes in Your Estate Plan

Your final arrangements go beyond what you want to happen to your property. You should also include what type of funeral arrangements you want and what should happen to your remains after you are gone. Pre-planning your final wishes is a great way to offer additional peace of mind for your loved ones during what will already be a stressful and emotional time.

One of the best ways to let your loved ones know about your funeral wishes is to write down a list of specific instructions which is separate from your Will. Consider the following:

  • Whether you want a funeral Mass or memorial Mass;
  • Songs/hymns to be sung;
  • Where the service should be held;
  • Whether you want to be cremated or buried;
  • If you have money put aside to pay for your final expenses and where it is;
  • Even what you would like to be wearing for your burial/cremation;
  • The designation of in-lieu of flowers or gifts.

Once you’ve made a plan, one of the most important things you can do is communicate your wishes to your loved ones. How else would they know?

(Reprinted with permission from Your Catholic Legacy newsletter published by the Development Office of the Archdiocese of Toronto.)

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