One of the concerns that many people have surrounding making an estate plan is trying to avoid conflict within their family. However, there are ways to minimize the possibility of conflict arising after your passing, as well as the possibility of a will contest that may drain your estate. Here are some strategies to accomplish these goals.
Talk About Your Plans
Many people are concerned about raising the topic of their estate plan with their beneficiaries during their lifetime because they do not want to deal with any fallout or upset their loved ones. However, it is often better to talk about your plans during your lifetime so that you can explain them. If you pass away without having these important conversations, your loved ones may wonder if your documents actually honor your wishes or if someone may have unduly influenced you.
If you can’t bring yourself to having this conversation, you may wish to provide a private note or video that accompanies your will that explains your wishes.
Explain Unequal Shares
Conflict may arise when one beneficiary gets more from your estate than others. For example, you may leave more money to your younger son than your older son. This may make the older son feel unequally loved. However, you may have legitimate reasons why an unequal distribution makes more sense, such as a longer expected lifespan, the amount of need each beneficiary has, a beneficiary has special needs, you have historically provided more financial support for one beneficiary versus another, or a beneficiary personally sacrificed to care for you in later life. Try to explain these unequal shares to your beneficiaries so that they understand your reasoning.
Pick Your Fiduciaries Carefully
You may need to appoint several different fiduciaries, such as your executor or trustee. Be sure that you carefully consider whether a person you are considering will honor your wishes and will not create conflict within the family. You may opt for an objective corporate trustee if you want, but you will need to factor in the extra expense if you choose this option. Be sure that you talk to these people before your passing so that they know of the appointment and understand your final wishes.
Make Personalized Plans
Rather than pooling all of your beneficiaries’ inheritances in a single account, you may choose to create a separate trust for each beneficiary. The trust administration is private, so one beneficiary would not generally have the right to know what is in another beneficiary’s trust.
Update Your Estate Plan
Conflict can also arise when there are changes in your life and your estate plan does not properly reflect them. Have your estate plan reviewed if you have major changes in your life, such as:
- You get married
- You get divorced
- You have more children
- Your property dramatically changes
- You relocate to a new state
- Your relationship with a fiduciary or beneficiary changes
You should also update your beneficiary designation forms as these or other changes occur.
Work with a Professional
An experienced estate planning attorney can anticipate potential problems and work with you to develop solutions to minimize conflict. Contact us to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your estate plan.