Make Sure Your Will Doesn't Cause Family Fallouts: Planning Your Estate Without Creating Rifts

| April 24, 2014
When a loved one passes on, the last thing anyone wants to think about is money. Unfortunately, there really is no way around it. Arrangements must be made, bills paid, and assets divided up amongst those left behind. If the departed was prudent, he or she will have a will that spells out who gets what and when.

But, even if you bequeath every item you own, there’s always a chance that somebody will be offended that they didn’t receive what they thought they were owed. Here’s how to avoid that problematic scenario.

Be Specific

When writing your last will and testament, remember that you won’t be around to help your heirs interpret the document after you expire. You won’t be able explain that you wanted your kids to split
your priceless coin collection three ways, but for some reason put your eldest child in charge of its distribution.

This is a common mistake many people make because they assume their heirs will do the right thing with the assets they inherit. Sadly, this is seldom the case. Money has an odd way of bringing out the worst in us, especially when we’re in mourning. That’s why you should never, ever put another person in charge of another’s inheritance. That simple mistake has been responsible for more legal battles and family conflicts over inheritance than any other.

Call a Family Conference

It might be awkward, even upsetting, but talking to your family about your final wishes is the best way to prevent resentment and bad blood. At the very least, getting everything out in the open should forestall the shock heirs often experience when they hear a will read for the first time.

A conference can also give folks a chance to address areas of contention within the family, issues that may fester and later explode if ignored. The dialogue may even help you decide if you made a mistake with your first draft. For example, if one of your kids tells you he/she has no interest in your coin collection, but would rather have your vintage corvette, and the other children agree, you can make that revision and everyone will be happy.

Hire an Estate Attorney

Just like doctors, lawyers have specific fields or areas of practice that they practice. You wouldn’t go to a pediatrician if you had a skin rash, would you? No, you’d go to a dermatologist! So, why in the world would you use your regular attorney to help you draw up your last will and testament? Odds are, he/she has next to no experience with estate planning. In other words, you should go to professional that spends most of their time on estate planning, rather than a general practitioner.

Trust us; estate planning is an incredibly complex, sophisticated area of legal practice that is constantly changing, since it involves both federal and states laws. Therefore, you need a lawyer that is completely immersed in this type of work, not one that does it on a part-time basis.

At the end of the day, the best defense against family fights over inheritance is communication. By simply explaining why you’re doing what you’re doing ahead of time, you can give everyone the time they need to come to terms with the decisions you have made.


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Evan M. Sauer
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