All About Estates

Navigating Challenging Holiday Experiences and Estate Planning: A Balanced Approach

This blog has been written by Jessica J. Butler, Law Clerk at Fasken LLP.

The holiday season can be a time for joy, love, and togetherness – it can also be a time for drama, stress, and conflict. Simmering tensions at family gatherings can cause situations that sometimes leave lasting impressions. In the aftermath of a negative experience with family, it’s natural for emotions to run high, in some cases even leading individuals to consider cutting their loved ones out of their estate plan. This blog explores the complexities of such situations and discusses the importance of adopting a balanced approach to estate planning.

Understanding the Emotions at Play

Gifts to buy, parties to throw and attend, year-end projects at work – the holidays can be both a blessing and a curse! One thing, however, is certain – emotions during this time of year are heightened.

Gathering with friends and family (especially those you may not have seen for a while) can evoke strong emotions, good or bad.  A negative experience with a loved one can leave one feeling hurt, angry, and even betrayed.  However, it’s essential to separate these often temporary but strong emotions from long-term decision making.

Communication and Conflict Resolution

Instead of immediately looking to cut someone out of your estate plan, one should consider engaging in open and honest communication (which admittedly is sometimes easier said than done). The holiday season can serve as an opportunity to address issues and seek a resolution. Arrange a calm and respectful conversation to express your concerns, listen to the perspective of others, and work towards finding common ground. It’s important to take a step back and consider the bigger picture – to reflect on the relationships you have built and the bond that (hopefully!) still exists despite disagreements.

Consider Long-Term Consequences

When making these kinds of decisions based on a negative experience, try to consider the long-term consequences. Cutting loved ones out of your estate plan can permanently damage relationships and cause long-lasting rifts within the larger family. It’s important to reflect on whether this decision aligns with your values and whether it’s worth sacrificing the potential for reconciliation and harmony.

Reviewing Your Estate Plan with Care

While it’s understandable to feel compelled to make immediate changes to your estate plan after a challenging holiday experience, it’s essential to approach the process with caution. Take the time to reflect on your intentions and consider if there are alternative solutions that may better preserve relationships. Consult with an estate planning practitioner to explore your options and gain a clear understanding of the legal implications of your decisions.

Balancing Wishes with Fairness

While it’s key to preserve relationships, your estate plan must nonetheless reflect your wishes and values. If concerns persist you may wish to explore alternative options such as adjusting inheritances, setting up trusts, or implementing conditions for distributions. Balancing your wishes with fairness can help maintain peace within the family while still addressing your concerns.

At the end of the day, you may ultimately decide that it is necessary to fully exclude a family member.  In this case, you should work with an estate planning practitioner to ensure that your wishes and decision making process are well-documented.  This can assist your executors when it comes time to distribute your estate and the exclusion of a beneficiary becomes a material issue which may or may not lead to a dispute.

In Conclusion

Holiday experiences that leave a negative impression can lead to challenging estate planning decisions, and it is essential to approach these situations with a balanced perspective. Rather than immediately cutting loved ones out of your estate plan, try to prioritize communication, understanding, and potential resolutions and consider the long-term consequences of your actions. Remember the power of forgiveness, and explore alternative solutions that balance your wishes with fairness. By adopting a thoughtful and measured approach, you may successfully navigate challenging family dynamics, preserve relationships and harmony, and have a fair and balanced estate plan.

Thanks for reading, and Happy Holidays!

About Fasken
As a premier law firm with over 950 lawyers worldwide, Fasken is where excellence meets expertise. We are dedicated to shaping the future our clients want, precisely when it matters most. For more information, visit


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.