How to Keep Estate Planning From Causing Family Arguments
Each year, roughly 3% of wills are contested due to disagreements among potential heirs. It can be quite tricky to create an estate plan that does not upset at least one person. Here are some things you can do to reduce disappointment among all your heirs.
Be Upfront About Your Plans
If you know your estate plan is going to ruffle some feathers, it is tempting to keep it a secret until after you pass. While this does keep you from having to deal with the estate planning arguments personally, it is more likely to cause turmoil among all your heirs. It can often end up working out better if you avoid surprises. Take the time to talk to each of your heirs, tell them what you are doing, and explain your reasoning. Even though your heirs may not agree with your reasoning, being able to hear it from you directly can help them process it better.
Don’t Forget to Discuss Sentimental Items
Often, the disappointments that lead to lengthy arguments with estate planning litigation lawyers are not even about pricey objects. Instead, people may end up arguing about who gets grandma’s silver ring or who receives dad’s favorite coffee mug. This tends to happen because many people focus only on property, bank accounts, and other big-ticket items during estate planning. Simply instructing your heirs to split household furnishings into equal shares is not enough. It is hard to find a fair division for heirlooms without a dollar value, especially when emotions are high following a death. Having a clear plan can ensure that every single heir gets the sentimental token they most prefer. Consider asking your heirs which sentimental items they want and making sure to mention them specifically in your will.
Ensure All Your Plans Are Legal
You are free to say anything you want when planning how to distribute your estate, but keep in mind that certain provisions are illegal. Having illegal items in your will often results in the entire will being challenged by an estate-planning litigation lawyer. This can end up disrupting your original plans and harming your heirs. You usually cannot leave money to pets or give away property that is part of a living trust. If you want to attach provisions to things you leave your heirs, these provisions cannot be illegal or personally invasive requirements like getting married. Often, life insurance policies and pensions have a specific beneficiary marked already, so you cannot change the beneficiary through your will.
Find Creative Compromises
When you have a lot of potential heirs who are all interested in your property, disappointment can seem inevitable. If you feel like you cannot decide how to divide property, consider getting unbiased advice from an estate planning attorney. It is important to remember that there are more options than just gifting properties outright to each heir. For example, you could set up a trust that lets your parents use a vacation home until their death, and then the vacation home proceeds could be split among your children.
Select the Right Executor
An executor helps handle property division following the reading of the will. Traditionally, people often select the oldest child. However, in some families, this can lead to tension or confusion. It is important to try to find an executor who is competent, organized, and caring. If you do not want to leave the task to anyone in your family, it is possible to select an attorney, financial advisor, or other trusted professional as your executor. This can reduce arguments that lead people to contest a will.
The right estate planning litigation lawyer can help you draft a plan that reduces disappointment and stands up to any legal scrutiny. At the Knee Law Firm, we focus on helping people draft unique estate plans that address their specific situation. Our Hackensack firm can assist with wills, trusts, power of attorney documents, and more. Call 201-996-1200 or email us to discuss your estate planning needs.