Can’t buy me love. Or can you?

Small Business Canada

Mallory McGrath founded Viive Planning in November 2020 to help families plan collaboratively for the aging and end-of-life process. Her experience as an estate litigation law clerk made her realize that families were battling over small amounts of money due to a lack of communication from parents to adult children before their death. She was inspired to fill a gap in traditional estate planning and established Viive Planning to enable families to plan for their future holistically and collaboratively.

She firmly believes that families need to avoid the destructive cocktail of grief and greed and have open conversations that prepare them for the future stages of life. Her mission through Viive Planning is to normalize conversations around death and change societal mindsets about aging and end-of-life planning. She wants to positively impact clients by educating them as she understands the complexities of family dynamics and the road ahead.

Mallory has obtained a Bachelor of Music Performance degree at the Schulich School of Music at McGill University. She is also a Certified Executor Advisor, has trained in meditation, studied thanatology and grief literacy.

For several hundred years, financial legacy and inter-generational wealth have been the threads that connect and sustain many families. However, while that transfer of wealth can bring joy and relief, it can also be extremely complex legally, financially, and often, emotionally destructive for a family.

There are good reasons to gift assets based on equity (situation-specific), and not equality (equal values, ex. split 50/50). Having a disabled child is a perfect example of a good (and typically well-understood) reason. That child may not be able to work and make an income, so they are gifted more money to ensure that they are taken care of. But what if one child is more actively involved in a parent’s care in the later years of their life? What if one child makes less money than their siblings? Are these reasons enough to gift based on equity and not equality?

These key questions should be addressed by families as they plan ahead.

Thankfully, according to the Advance Care Planning Canada 2021 National poll, 70% of Canadians (compared to 63% in 2019) felt comfortable having advanced care planning conversations. This is a significant increase, but it doesn’t mean that these conversations are necessarily happening yet – we still need more. 

Grief & Greed Destroy Families 

Grief & greed are a destructive cocktail of emotions. 

You can never predict how grief will impact a member of your family. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to losing a parent. If your children find out after your death that you chose to bestow your legacy based on equity and not equality, they will likely think: “Mom and Dad didn’t love me as much as my brother.” This is not unreasonable because even though your children might be in their 60s by the time you die, there is still a child-like connection to your parent/child relationship that cannot be ignored. Ultimately, children want to feel equally loved by their parents and want to know that there are no favorites. One way you can ensure they are all on equal footing in your eyes is by talking to them about your wishes and plans so that there is never any confusion or doubt as to how much you love them – and how much you’re leaving to them. 

According to a BMO InvestorLine Study, 63% of Canadians expect to receive an inheritance in the future.

Many also assume that their inheritances will be larger than they turn out to be, with the average inheritance in Canada being just under $100,000. 

The last act that you will do after you die is to gift money and assets to your family. If you choose to give more money to one child than the other without having discussed it before your death, you run the risk of your children thinking that you don’t love them equally. This absence of clarity and communication among families is the crux of estate litigation. 

Whether we want to admit it or not, for surviving children, Money is Love and Love is Money.

Can’t buy me love. Or can you?

This fact is consistently proven in our society. There are many prominent estate litigation lawyers who have built successful businesses on the fact that we associate our parents’ love with the amount of money they give to us when they die.

To ensure that your legacy is one of love and harmony, show your dedication to your children by opening a conversation about your legacy wishes, and give the gift of clarity and fairness so that they continue to feel that love long after you’ve gone. You never know what one of your children may expect or assume, and it’s always best to share with everyone what the emotional reason was behind each of your choices. 

You love your family. You owe it to them to have at least those conversations.

Mallory McGrath is the Founder and CEO of Viive Planning, a company dedicated to helping families design and communicates their legacy plans, to ensure positive outcomes and harmony.

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