Object Lessons from Karen Von Hahn’s New Memoir

April 13, 2017 Doreen So Continuing Legal Education, Estate & Trust, Estate Planning, Executors and Trustees, General Interest, Guardianship, In the News, Power of Attorney, Wills Tags: , , , , , , , 0 Comments

Today’s blog was inspired by Karen Von Hahn’s article in The Globe and Mail about the memoir that she wrote on the subject of her late mother.  What Remains: Object Lessons of Love and Loss appears to be a collection of chapters in which each chapter is focused on a different thing or object that reminded the author of her mother.  According to Von Hahn, she used items, like her mother’s silver satin sofas and a pack of cigarettes, “as a starting point, lens and metaphor to talk about who she was”.  Perhaps poignantly, Von Hahn wrote that “the first line of the book is that the last word my mother ever said to me was ‘pearls’”.

Given the importance that we may attach to our things (and the importance that our loved ones may correlatively attach to our things), those who are thinking about their estate plans may wish to include specific provisions in their Will with respect to the disposition of personal possessions on death.

In doing so, an attorney for property or a guardian of property will also be prohibited from getting rid of these specific items during the testator’s lifetime, if he/she knows that these items are subject to a specific testamentary gift in accordance with section 35.1 of the Substitute Decisions Act, 1992.  That being said, section 35.1 of the Act also allows for the disposition of a specific testamentary gift if it is necessary to comply with the guardian’s duties, or if it is gifted to the person who would be entitled to it under the Will within the purview of an optional expenditure under section 37.   Accordingly, specificity is key in this regard and it would appear that care should be given to describing the item with as many details as possible.

As Von Hahn wrote in her article,

“Like it or not, we read every book by its cover, and judge everyone we meet by their shoes. Which is why we live our lives engaged in a deep and meaningful relationship with both our possessions, and also those of whom we love.”

On that note, happy long weekend everyone!

Doreen So

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