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Minimizing Conflict from the Grave

How would you feel if years after your death, your children (or grandchildren) were embattled in litigation over assets you intended to leave them?  Perhaps you never got around to updating your Will or beneficiary designations – or never did them at all?  Would you want their inheritance being spent on legal fees to untangle an unintentional mess?

Even the best-behaved children can find themselves embroiled in conflict with one another after a parent dies.  Anticipating and planning to avoid that conflict is an important part of the estate planning process. 

We encourage clients to consider carefully the appointment of their personal representative (executor) and the selection of their agent for decision-making in the event of their incapacity. 

While some opt for letting their kids fight it out in the event of an estate dispute, others find value in spending a little extra time on planning to avoid a situation where estate assets are wasted on litigation, or simply to avoid family conflict after their death.

Points for consideration include the distribution of your tangible personal property (your jewelry, furniture, artwork, etc.); the utilization of separate trusts for each child, rather than a trust for which there are multiple beneficiaries; and the designation of an appropriate (non-sibling) trustee.

Even more important: providing clear and concise guidance to the individuals acting on your behalf while you are still alive.  Your financial and medical decision makers shouldn’t have to guess about how you would want your assets managed or when you want the plug pulled.  Leaving those issues unaddressed, or inadequately addressed puts the onus on a sometimes unwitting agent to fend up inquiries from other family members who question their decisions.

If one of your estate planning goals is to prevent family conflict after your death, we’ve got strategies for that.  We like solving problems before they actually become problems – give us a call to talk about how we can help.

 

Anastasia Prendergast