As we age, one of the things we may begin to consider is what preparations we need to make in anticipation of incapacitation or end of life. This may look like powers of attorney over end of life care or financial matters such as the sale of the family home. It may be preparing a will.

Often whole families may be connected to the transaction, and sometimes, with families, this stressful time can create opportunities for conflict. My experience with a number of my client’s in this position, highlights the importance of having an updated will, and making sure your affairs are in order. Planning ahead will help reduce stress for the executor and the beneficiaries.

Are you the one selling on behalf of your parents? Here’s how to Preventing Family Conflict When Selling Your Parent’s Home.

Potential conflict #1 The will

Sometimes wills are written in a way that not all beneficiaries will view as “fair”. The drafter always has a reason for their decision, there may be an estrangement, an individual with special needs, or they’ve already helped one child while they were living. Sometimes there may be a party that gets nothing.

These circumstances could end up with hard feelings and may even cause someone to impede, delay or dispute the distribution of belongings or the proceeds of the sale. I’ve seen people spend six figures on lawyers disputing a $200 matter. Emotions run high when people are grieving and they may not always make the most prudent decisions in those moments.

I have seen a case like this where siblings decided to voluntarily share some proceeds with the excluded sibling (against the parent’s wishes). Often the sibling who does inherit feels enormous guilt over the distribution which turns it into an emotional burden instead of the leg up the parents intended. They may even be targeted or pressured by the excluded sibling, adding to their stress and grief.

When drafting a will, be very thoughtful about how you make arrangements and the unintended consequences of your decisions.

Sometimes the executor will be blamed for the decisions you made, keep that in mind if you plan to make one of your children the executor. Always work with a legal professional who has expertise with wills and estates.

If you don’t have a will, the government could get involved and it can take years to resolve. I also don’t recommend purchasing a templated will from a big box store or the internet either. A lawyer I know, once told me that she makes a very good living overturning those documents in court. These are complex legal matters that you’ll want to work with a professional on. If you don’t know where to start, contact me and I can give you a list of trusted legal professionals to interview..

Potential conflict #2 Who gets what?

One thing any executor and or seller will need to deal with is the downsizing or disposition of their parent’s belongings. Without a will, this is an opportunity for conflict within the family with regards to what happens with their family heirlooms or photo collections. Even that porcelain Elvis head everyone once mocked can become an invaluable item to siblings who will want it as a memory of their parents.

A tip I learned from my in-laws, as morbid as it may seem, is to think through this in advance. They’ve asked their children to list out what items that they would want so that they can minimize the potential for conflict later. Some items they may gift early, the remainder will be itemized in their will.

Do you want to learn more about how I can help when selling your home? Check out Stress-Free Selling In Scarborough & Durham Region.

Potential conflict #3 Pace and timing of preparing the house for sale

As I’ve experienced many times with various clients with parents who’ve been in their homes for up to 70 years, there can be an overwhelming amount of stuff to sort through. Everyone may be on their own timelines, one sibling will want to sift through every memory over months (even years), another wants to move forward quickly. This is a recipe for conflict and hurt feelings, accusations of “you don’t care”.

You can minimize this burden by gifting items you intend to pass on while you are still living. You will have the benefit of getting to see your children enjoying these items today. Go through a spring cleaning and investigate that basement, attic, shed or crawl space you haven’t tackled in decades. Gift, donate or sell things you haven’t used in years. Call me if you need a packing or organizing service to help. I can also provide you with an auction service that will come to you, to sell those items you no longer will use.

Whatever your circumstances may be, I may be able to help. My specialized training as a Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES), and over 20 years of experience helping families through difficult family transitions has allowed me to gain knowledge and network that might help make your burden easier.

If you think you may be ready for your next chapter, you can call me at 647.283.2127, send me an email at, or complete the form on this page.

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