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The division and disposition of a deceased person’s personal goods and household effects is often a contentious issue, particularly amongst family members. The conflict is most often caused by sentimental and emotional values friends and family members place on the items rather than their intrinsic values. Unfortunately, most people spend relatively little time considering how to dispose of their personal and household effects on death, but instead, focus on monetary issues. You should, therefore, consider what specific items form your collection of personal and household effects and how you wish to resolve potential problems that may arise when distributing those articles. For example, consider the following issues:

  1. Do you have any personal property which may not be ordinarily thought of as personal effects or household contents (e.g. a rifle or wine collection)?
  2. Do you own an item that has high intrinsic or sentimental value (e.g. family heirloom or work of art)?
  3. Are you the sole owner or do you own personal items jointly with someone?
  4. If you are in a blended family, are there any articles that you would want children from a previous marriage or another family member to inherit, rather than spouse #2?
  5. Where are your personal effects actually located (e.g. principal residence, in a safety deposit box, the office, cottage, on loan to a third party, in storage or in the condo in Atlanta)?
  6. Have you had any items with high intrinsic value formally appraised (e.g. antiques, art, jewellery), and if so, when?

In considering the answers to these questions, your legal advisor will be able to guide you as to how best to express and implement your wishes. In essence, it is better to properly plan the distribution of personal effects rather than risk confusion, animosity and potentially long lasting hurt feelings amongst your loved ones after you are gone.

Download the PDF: Concepts Newsletter – Winter 2009

Download the PDF: Ontario Funeral Service Association News – April 2011

Download the PDF: Canadian Institute of Management – Fall 2011

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