Avoid conflict over disinheritance by being upfront

From this week’s article on Advocate Daily, by our own Timothy Sullivan:

The decision to disinherit a child may be reasonable depending on the circumstances, but it will likely lead to hurt relationships and confusion if an upfront conversation with family members doesn’t take place first, says Ottawa wills and estates lawyer Timothy N. Sullivan.

A recent Globe and Mail article says when it comes to disinheriting a child, there are no blanket rules that apply. Courts will consider the facts of a specific case before deciding whether to side with the child or the estate, says the report.

But in almost all cases, says the Globe, fighting to change a deceased person’s estate plan is complicated, expensive and stressful.

To read more, check out the whole story on AdvocateDaily.

Preparing a Will: 3 options, explained


Making a will is important. Knowing your options is the first step.

Unusual holographic will from the 1950s

A very unusual – but ultimately accepted as legal – will from Los Angeles, 1953.

Hardly anyone enjoys the prospect of preparing a will. But without one, you not only run the risk of having your estate distributed contrary to your wishes – you may be leaving your family and friends with a legal mess to clean up after you’re gone. Don’t think of a will as something ‘morbid’; think of it as an administrative favour you can do for the people you care about most.

When it comes to wills, you have 3 choices: A holographic will, a do-it-yourself will kit, or a professionally drafted will. All three, properly executed, are legal, but it’s important to understand the advantages (and disadvantages) of each option.

Holographic Wills

A Holographic Will is a will which is written entirely in your own hand. It’s inexpensive (all you need is a piece of paper, a pen, and legible handwriting), and doesn’t require witnesses or a notary public in order to be valid. However, it does have a number of potential disadvantages: Your intentions may not be expressed as clearly to others; the organization of the will may dispose of all your property in one fell swoop and leave nothing to others as you had intended; if your will is stored at the bottom of a desk drawer, it may be difficult to locate or probate; and without witnesses, your capacity to make a will may be challenged.

DIY Will Kits

Will kits, sold online (or in stationery stores) can be an attractive, low-cost solution. Most provide an assortment pre-written words/clauses, and all you have to do is fill in the blanks to itemize property, heirs, etc. This can be a good option for uncomplicated estates, but will kits have some caveats: It’s up to you to ensure that the will has been properly executed and appropriately witnessed; that you have included the necessary details; and that it’s stored in a place where it will be easily found when needed.It may be difficult to find the witnesses to guarantee their signatures for probate.

Professionally-Drafted Wills

A professionally-prepared will – one drafted and executed by a lawyer – is the most expensive of the three options.  However, you may find that the cost is less than you think (many lawyers prepare wills for a set small fee rather than a large hourly retainer), while the advantages are significant.  Having a lawyer prepare your will means you’ll get legal counsel, tax assistance, and probate fee-reducing advice; your will is stored at the lawyer’s office in a fire-proof safe; and lawyers are backed by errors and omissions insurance.  This protection is particularly valuable for people whose property includes real estate (such as the family home), investments/RRSPs,  and spouses and children or grandchildren as heirs.


This is not intended as legal advice. Please consult a professional licensed in Ontario to provide legal advice as specific facts may affect your particular circumstances.


Will your LinkedIn account outlive you?


Without a plan in place, your social media profile may live forever

We’ve talked before about how important it is to have a properly-written-and-witnessed will in place – and how it’s the sort of thing that so many people put off until it’s too late.

But here’s something to consider:  Most of us think about the big stuff when we think about wills and estates. We think about leaving enough money behind to take care of our families, about making sure that the house and other big assets are accounted for, and about making our wishes clear regarding children or healthcare decisions.

However, it’s the small details that can really prove problematic in the event of an untimely or unanticipated death.  The courts have established precedents for the ‘big stuff’ like the family home or minor children, there are other areas which are either too rare or too new to have sufficient precedent.

Take your social media profile, for example.  As this infographic suggests, not many of us have really thought about this, or made our wishes clear, even verbally, to the people around us. Do you really want those stag-night photos to be floating around the internet long after you’re gone?

Another good reason to make sure you’ve got a will in place…

plan for your digital estate timothy n sullivan ottawa