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How to Avoid Family Drama with Your Estate Plan

Aug. 6, 2018

Family dynamics can be complicated. Perhaps you divorced and remarried, and you and your current spouse have children from former marriages. Or maybe you do not have children, and you plan to leave your estate to extended family. Even if you and your spouse have only been married to each other, relationships among siblings can be complex.

Naming heirs in your estate plans may leave some family members feeling slighted, and this could lead to complications after you pass on. If you do not want your estate to end up in court with your family fighting over it, you should consider doing these things when creating your estate plan.

Open the Lines of Communication

If there are issues that remain unresolved among family members, suggest a family meeting. Encourage open communication among family members, and tell them know how important they all are to you. Encourage them to listen to each other and try to remain open to considering the other person’s point of view. If your family cannot resolve issues face-to-face, you might suggest that they meet with a counselor.

After your family has discussed their issues, let them know you are creating an estate plan, and that you plan to include them in your estate. Tell them that you will divide assets fairly. This may prevent hurt feelings later about favorite children or unfair treatment. Ask if there is a certain charity everyone would like to see part of your assets support. This could bring the family together by working toward a common goal.

Consider an Independent Trustee or Executor

You may want to consider naming a trustee or executor that is outside your family. An executor handles a will, and a trustee disperses assets through a trust. If you concerned that naming someone within in your family may create more drama, it might be best to find an attorney, accountant or another third party to execute your estate plan. Though you will have to pay a lawyer or accountant, it may be less expensive than if your family went to court over your estate. Additionally, if you are concerned that your family members are not great with money, naming them a trustee may not be a good idea.

Be Honest About Your Estate Plan

After you have finalized your estate plan, you should let your heirs know more about the specifics. You do not need to tell them everything, but give them a general idea of the structure of the plan. Let them know if you have created a trust and who will benefit from it. Communicating this information may prevent disputes later about whether your estate plan truly reflects your wishes.

Being honest and open with your family about your estate plan could help eliminate issues later on. Keeping your estate out of court not only preserves your family dynamic, it may also prevent significant parts of your assets going towards court fees.