You’re ready to establish an estate plan and you wish to minimize disagreements or hurt feelings among family members—or at least avoid a Hatfields vs. McCoys scenario.
The process is often emotional, and creating a plan to please everyone involved may be impossible. But grantors can take steps to express good will toward their loved ones while minimizing conflict and maximizing fairness. Consider the following:
- Choose your executor(s) carefully, avoiding conflicts of interest. Don’t name rival siblings co-executors. Consider a family member outside the fray, a trusted advisor or even a commercial trustee.
- For possessions that are particularly valuable or emotionally infused, make the division yourself and openly communicate your reasons.
- Blended families present their own challenges. Remarried grantors should consider how to best take care of their new spouse and children from both marriages since they likely have conflicting interests.
- Consider establishing trusts for beneficiaries with special requirements, such as young children, beneficiaries with bad credit or addiction issues, or those who are in troubled or struggling marriages. Prepare for “what-if” scenarios, such as health problems, addictions, marital splits, bankrupt businesses or geographic moves.
- Don’t assume you’re not wealthy enough for an estate plan, like 64 percent of Americans.
Forbes advises anyone over age 18 needs a plan dictating division of assets; guardianship of minor children; living will directives; passwords and documents for digital assets; directions for pets and the conclusion of social media sites.
Finally, eliminate the element of surprise by scheduling a family meeting to explain the ramifications of your estate plan and allow everyone to ask questions.
“It’s always difficult to predict which families will get along and which will end up in court fighting over mother’s heirloom china,” concludes attorney Tim White in Forbes. “Leaving an estate plan with clear instructions is your best defense against family discord.”
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