Estate Planning is, in part, the process of passing on your property to your beneficiaries. Typically this would be children or grandchildren. Unfortunately, it is often a source of family conflict, fighting, and can often lead to legal battles that can permanently disrupt family ties.
Many parents prepare an estate plan with the best intentions so that their loved ones will not have to deal with lengthy probate court processes. Using an estate planning attorney can ensure that the plan is well crafted and will work when the time comes.
However, in some cases, even when proper planning was done, misunderstanding can ensue, and families can fight over an estate plan when a parent dies.
Lack of Communication Can Cause Disagreements
The absence of communication among family members is one of the most prevalent and most serious issues in estate planning. Many parents are hesitant to discuss their mortality or what will happen to their assets once they pass on.
If a family’s day-to-day communication is problematic, discussions regarding estate planning can be even more complex and potentially hurtful. Until the parent passes away, most heirs have no idea how the estate will be split, and by that time, they may have years of resentment stored up.
How Include Children In Your Estate Plan to Avoid the Disagreements
This is why it is important to include children, at least partially, in the estate planning process. Making sure your children are clear on what your intentions are, and why you made the decisions included in your estate plan. Often difficult decisions are made that make sense to parents, but without proper explanation, can feel like a slight against a child. Naming one child over another as Executor, giving a smaller amount to one child because of gifts they received during their lifetime, or disinheriting completely for one reason or another are all common scenarios that can lead to conflict.
By communicating your decisions to your children ahead of time, you can ensure that they are prepared when the time comes and there are no surprises when they read your will or trust.
Other Tips for Avoiding Conflict
If including your children in the estate planning process is not something you want to do, or if your children are too young to discuss these tough topics, there are few other options to avoid family conflict in the future.
Writing a Letter of Explanation. Writing a letter explaining your decisions in your estate plan can help children understand your thought process. The will or trust itself generally does not go into detail regarding why you made certain decisions, and for good reason. Superfluous language can create ambiguity or confusion that could create legal issues during the probate process. A letter of explanation has no legal significance but can help avoid family conflict.
Incluidng a Contest Clause in your Will or Trust. Many estate planning attorneys recommend a contest clause be included in your estate planning documents. This is a simple clause that states that any individual who tries to challenge the will or trust will be completely disinherited. This seems harsh, but is an effective way of preventing any lengthy legal battles that can cost your estate thousands and can permanently disrupt a family.
Good communication is essential to any good estate plan. Communicating with your spouse, attorney, family members, and other professionals like your financial advisor and CPA will only improve your estate plan, give you peace of mind, and ensure your goals are met.
Are you looking for an estate planning lawyer in Camp Hill, PA? Cherewka Law can assist you in developing your plans to address your goals for you and your family. Our estate planning process is sure to fit your unique situation and will work as you intend. Contact us today!