These wills that stick in your throat

In movies, stories of inheritance that sow discord in wealthy families keep us in suspense. In real life, some wills cause great suffering, regardless of the amounts. A reality that is taboo and little known by force of circumstances.

I recently wrote about these parents who disinherited their children from their first union after finding love again. In Quebec, no less than 30% of men and 12% of women would do so1.

Far be it from me to judge those who do not include the names of their descendants in their wills. There could be all sorts of reasons, some excellent, others rational, vindictive, shocking, irresponsible. The list could be long.

Regardless of what is really behind our decisions regarding legacy, they can have very serious consequences on a psychological level. The effects of such a decision must not be underestimated both by the testators and by the notaries who draw up the last will.

That is the message or rather the warning that the woman I will call Simone wants to convey. When his father died in 2017, he left his four grown children not a penny. This decision stopped all the family members.

“One of my brothers suffered from very deep depression, the other had increasingly serious behavioral problems. My sister was shocked inside and shut up like an oyster. We were all rejected. I did not accept his betrayal. »

For Simone, it is unimaginable to have a pleasant relationship with her father, to care for him when he was ill at the end of his life, to exchange smiles for years, and then to be “stabbed in the back with a club”. in her will. “Was it all wind? I suffer every day because of this. » A 60-year-old woman feels excluded from her own family.

Novelist and columnist Geneviève Pettersen (98.5 and Noovo) “captive” revealed my text2 publicly that his father, who died last summer, left him nothing. Until then, despite her suffering, she spoke little about it, even to those around her. There was shame, of course. But she was also afraid of being seen as “money,” she told me.

This is what makes an affair so invisible: how can you express your pain without attracting criticism and hurtful judgments?

Geneviève notes that her father’s choice complicates her grieving process. “That’s an understatement. It’s extremely painful to face this unchangeable decision made by a parent. And it can be extremely violent to conclude that you’re not worth five cents. »

Both women are convinced: getting a little nothing would change everything. It could be a fishing rod, a letter, a trinket… Legacy is not a question of money, it’s a feeling that I was important to someone, that I’m part of a clan.

For this reason, Simone contested the will with her siblings. In a way, restore the family. The matter was resolved amicably. A friend of the deceased, who allegedly manipulated him to get all his property, ended up sharing it, according to the lawsuit.

Despite everything, Simone agrees with Quebec laws that allow her to bequeath her property to people of her choice, which is not the case in France. However, she questions the role of notaries. Did she, who had always taken care of her family’s affairs, and who changed her father’s will in favor of her boyfriend, find it strange that four children were suddenly struck out of the text? In theory, she should.

But since her client appeared capable of testing (no major change in mental capacity) and single, the notary had to respect his wishes, reasonable or not. The important thing is that the choices are thought out and understood. The process is of course confidential: there is no question of notifying disadvantaged children.

To minimize the risk of a dispute and give parents some thought, Notary Cassandra Vermette asks a lot of questions in these types of situations. “What is the reason?” Did something big happen or is it just frustration that you didn’t see your child for Christmas? We need to make people aware of what disinheriting a child or all children will create in reading. »

Unfortunately, the Chamber of Notaries and the Chamber of Advocates do not have any statistics on the proportion of contested wills or on the number of cases of this type heard by the courts.

But it happens, and people win “regularly,” reveals research by Christine Morin, full professor at Laval University’s law school and notary emeritus. The most common reason for the dispute is “incapacity of the testator”. But Justice also deals with cases where the deceased appears to have been fraudulently influenced by a person in bad faith, which is called entrapment.

With the proliferation of blended families with complex organizational schemes, we must expect that painful disappointments and disputes will become more and more numerous.

1. Read the article “Disinheriting Your Children Like Johnny Hallyday”

2. Check out Geneviève Pettersen’s column

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