There are a few major issues that can cause disputes within a family and the number one being that family members sometimes just don’t get along. The second is the more money and assets there are, the more there is to argue about. Whether you have a ton of material things or you have nothing, the steps below can help minimize damage, dispute or contest.
Create an estate plan while you are healthy and of sound mind
This means DO NOT wait until you are ill to make decisions about the future of your assets. When you’re sick, you want to focus on getting healthy and staying healthy, not worry about who is getting what.
Seek quality independent legal advice free from undue influence
Don’t do it yourself. Have your documents prepared by an attorney who specializes in elder law and estate planning to ensure accuracy and expertise.
Use a revocable living trust to avoid probate
A funded revocable living trust will keep your estate out of probate – a process that requires notices, rights and court proceedings that your loved ones may not have the time or energy for.
Choose executor and trustee succession wisely
From the words of Jeffrey R. Gottlieb, “In some instances naming co-trustees can minimize conflict, but in others it may create conflict. If beneficiaries are likely to fight, consider naming an independent trustee, such as a trust company. Above all else, the trustee must be trustworthy.”
Explain different or unequal treatment of beneficiaries
When there are multiple family members involved, including children, things can get messy. This causes an increased chance of disputes arising because each child may be attributed more or different possessions. Set expectations in advance and allow them to know what is going to happen before it happens. This can potentially decrease arguments.
Address division and distribution of personal effects
Tangible personal property is the number one cause of estate disputes. Have an honest conversation with your beneficiary(ies) to gain knowledge of their wishes and expectations. Write down on paper your directions as well. This can also help diffuse a situation before it happens.
Be mindful of the consequences of joint asset ownership
“It’s not uncommon for a parent to add a child to a bank account to help with the finances. This creates a presumption of a gift, meaning that the account belongs to the joint owner upon death. Was that really the intent?”
Monitor and update your estate plan
This is a lifelong process and will continue to change and grow as you change and grow. Be mindful of important life events such as marriage, divorce, children, etc. All situations can be avoided if the proper steps are taken in advance. Be open about your wishes. Be mindful about others’ feelings. Most of all, hire an attorney with the knowledge to guide you through. For more information, visit www.kabblaw.com or call 216-991-KABB.