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Friday, December 2, 2016

Forget coffins! This company will swirl you into beautiful glass creations when you die

The funeral industry has come a long way and it seems to come up with more and more innovative ideas. The newest fad is have a spoonful of your cremated ashes added to a glass mixture that is swirled into a lovely, individual glass orb. Each orb has an engraved message and the name of the loved one. What do you think? Would you rather have this on  your mantel than the traditional urn?

Click here to read more about these glass swirls and to check out several more photos.The attached photo accompanied the linked article at

Monday, November 28, 2016

Not as they intended: Estate plans gone wrong

Estate planners like me are always telling people to make their plans and get them onto paper in the right way. But even planned estates occasionally go off the rails. Sometimes it's because of an essential detail that got lost in the shuffle, and at other times (okay, let's be real here, MOST times) it's because beneficiaries behave badly after the death of a testator.

I recently came across an article in which talked to a number of legal and financial advisors to find out the worst estate disasters they had seen. It's actually very eye-opening because it shows that no item is too small (a recipe box, for example) or too large (such as a big trust fund) to be the cause of an estate dispute. It also demonstrates very clearly that you don't have to be super-wealthy to get benefit from proper planning.

Click here to see the story.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Corona Beer founder Antonino Fernandez makes entire village millionaires in his will

In August 2016, billionaire Antonino Fernandez died at age 98. In his will, he left his entire fortune to the folks who live in the village of Cerezales del Condado, where Mr. Fernandez had grown up in a large, very poor family. Each villager will receive about 2 million British pounds.

This incredibly generous gesture is certainly one way to be remembered.

Click here to read a news story from with  more details about the bequests and about how Mr. Fernandez went from rags to riches with Corona beer.

I like this story because it shows how a person can use his will to express himself and attain goals that are important to him. Mr. Fernandez must have felt real compassion for the people living in that village and wondered how he could make the best use of his fortune to help as many as possible. He gave his life's work great meaning by using it to ease the burdens of others.

If Mr. Fernandez hadn't left a will, we wouldn't now be talking about what a generous and great guy he was. His fortune would have been divided among his family members. The only way to make sure that wishes like this - whether it's to give $500 to the SPCA or to share billions among a village - are carried out after your death is to plan in advance and have a strong will made.

The attached photo of Mr. Fernandez accompanied the article in the Telegraph and is credited to ABC.ES.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

French heir finds $3.7m gold hoard under furniture

How would you feel if you inherited a house from someone? Pretty good, I imagine. And what if the house was fully furnished and decorated? Even better! And now, imagine that hidden in the back of the linen closet and taped underneath couch cushions were stacks and stacks of gold. I'm sure you would think THAT would never happen to anyone. But it has. A man in France who inherited a house from a relative has found 100 kg (220 lbs) of gold in the house.

Click here to read a story from with more details about this surprising haul.

If that happened to you, would you be allowed to keep the gold, or would that belong to the estate? That would depend on the facts and the wording of the will.

If the will left you the house and specifically gave you the contents of house as well, you'd be entitled to keep everything in the house, including the gold. If there were other beneficiaries, I'm sure they'd take a stab at claiming the gold belongs in the estate, but if the language of the will is clear, it should stand up to the challenge.

If the will left you the house only and did not specifically state that you were to get the contents as well, you would not get to keep the gold. Nor would you be able to keep the furniture or anything else in the house. The items would belong to the general estate and be divided among residuary beneficiaries. When a person leaves a beneficiary "the house", it does not include the contents. Leaving a house to someone means you have left your title to them, including the buildings but excluding the personal and household goods contained within them.

Other clauses in the will could also have an impact on whether the gold could be kept or not. Clauses in a will generally cannot be taken in isolation but must fit into the intent of the will as a whole. For example, if there was a clause in the will that said that all gold was to be left to A while the household contents were to be left to B, there could well be a legitimate dispute as to who should get the gold.

Most of us don't have gold bricks in the back of the junk drawer, but we do have plenty of other items in our homes, cabins, and rental properties. Whenever you think of leaving a piece of property to someone, make sure that you also consider what is to happen to the furniture, the decor items, the contents of the garage, and small valuables such as jewelry. If you are not clear in your will, you could create confusion and disputes among the beneficiaries.

The attached photo of some of the inherited gold accompanied the BBC article and is credited to AFP/GETTY.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

My father was a beneficiary but died before the testator. Do I get his share?

Deciding who gets what under a will can sometimes be confusing. This is particularly true when a named beneficiary has passed away. A reader recently asked me about this situation:

"I am a Manitoban whose brother has passed in April 2016. My father was a beneficiary but died in 1998. My brother's will included my father as a beneficiary in other words he was not removed from the will. According to my understanding of the Wills Act, specifically #25, 25(1) and 25 (2) my sister and I should inherit my father's share equally. The will showed my mother, my other brother (both still alive) and my father (dead) as beneficiaries.

The testator also had a daughter and forgot to update his will to include her. She lives in the U.S. but just turned 18 in March. She is attending college. The ex common law partner has been out of the picture a long time. Am I entitled to my father's share? 

I think the Intestate Succession Act 5 (1) also supports my line of reasoning. Am I incorrect in believing I am entitled to something ?"

If your father was a beneficiary under the will but died before your brother did, there are two possibilities for what happens with his gift. They depend on the wording of the will because specific wording in a will is always going to supercede the default position set up in the legislation.

One possibility is that your brother's will simply left the gift to your father without  making any statements about what would happen with the gift if your father predeceased him. If that is how the will is worded, you are correct that section 25 (shown below) will apply but it isn't going to do what you think it will. Section 25 says that if a gift under a will cannot be given because the beneficiary has died, then the gift falls into the residue of the estate. This means the share that your father would have received will be shared among the other named residuary beneficiaries. That would appear to be your mother and brother.

25          Subject to sections 25.1 and 25.2 and except when a contrary intention appears by the will, real or personal property or an interest therein that is comprised, or intended to be comprised, in a devise or bequest that fails or becomes void by reason of the death of the devisee or donee in the lifetime of the testator, or by reason of the devise or bequest being contrary to law or otherwise incapable of taking effect, is included in the residuary devise or bequest, if any, contained, in the will.

The other possibility is that the will DOES say something about what happens to the share of a beneficiary if that beneficiary dies first. For example, it might say that if your father died first, his share would go to his children, or to a charity, or to a particular person. A statement like that would be the "contrary intention" mentioned in the first line of section 25. If the will gives instructions like that for the disposition of the gift, then your father's share would be distributed according to those instructions.

Another example of wording that might affect the gift is the addition of the words "if he survives me" after the gift to your father. That would mean your father's share would not be passed on to his children unless specified in the will.

Section 25(1) does not apply because it deals with estate tails, which are not in play here. Section 25(2) also doesn't apply because it deals with what happens when "issue" of the deceased pass away before the deceased. Issue are children, grandchildren, etc, and not the parents of the deceased.

The age of majority in Manitoba is 18. I understand that your niece turned 18 before your brother died. Normally an adult child who does not have a disability does not automatically have a right to receive a share of her parent's estate, but in this case she is a student. She might be able to make a case for a share of the estate, though that would affect the entire estate and not just the share that would have gone to your father.

The Intestate Succession Act is irrelevant here because your brother was not intestate. "Intestate" means dying without a valid will.

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