Legacies can take various forms. When it comes to estate planning, many parents want to ensure that their children live better lives following their deaths. Having formal documents in place can help keep the peace within a family after tragic losses.
Open lines of communication are paramount during the process of drafting wills, trusts, and other forms that make up the estate planning process. Whether significant wealth exists or not, the smallest of disputes can turn into the largest of battles among the children of the deceased.
One child getting more money or valuable heirlooms than another can lead to, at best, complicated feelings. At worst, it would create an unrepairable rift with a family member feeling slighted, believing that the amount of money they received was reflective of their position in the family unit. The natural target of their anger is the sibling or siblings who received more assets.
The possibility of probate disputes is a clear and present danger to a once unified family now dealing with heated arguments. The sibling selected as a personal representative may also be the source of dissension. With that in mind, parents performing the proactive steps that come with estate planning should consider the possibility of potential dissension.
Far too many probate disputes fill up the dockets of courtrooms throughout the nation. Relationships that were already strained can fray and break apart over the smallest asset or dollar amount.
Options for resolution include:
- Mediation – A growingly popular means to resolve estate planning disputes in an environment where everyone has a voice
- Draft/drawing – Allowing loved ones to choose an item to keep. Whether the order involves the oldest to the youngest or a blind drawing, it has the potential to keep the peace.
- Liquidation of significant assets – A residence or vacation property is challenging to divvy up among children. If sharing is not an option, parents should sell the assets. While emotionally challenging, it can potentially establish a more peaceful environment after a tragic loss.
Tragedies affect family members differently. However, having estate planning documents in place and communicating your intentions can help maintain family harmony.