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Avoiding A Family Feud Over Your Estate Plan

Estate Plan paperwork

In a year where we are wading through a new tax law and have a lot of questions about which way the market might be headed, 44% of estate planning professionals say dealing with family conflict is the biggest challenge they will face this year. To an outsider, this may seem alarming, but to a seasoned estate planning attorney, it is par for the course. Family drama is a common part of the estate planning process, so part of our job is helping clients deal with it.

Inconvenient Truths

Death and money are two topics that are sure to get people’s hearts racing and minds’ reeling. But they are two topics that must be discussed in order to make an estate plan. There is no way to avoid these subjects, so you might as well jump right into a discussion of them with your family members.

Rather than attempting to have such an important conversation in the midst of a holiday celebration or family get-together, it is often best to schedule a family meeting and give folks a head’s up about the main topic.

Go For The Goals

In order to set the tone of the conversation, you should consider starting out by explaining what your overarching estate planning goals are. This suggests that you want to look forward rather than dredging up past grievances and petty disputes.

If you don’t know what your goals are, that’s something you should start thinking about! The benefit of working with an experienced estate planning attorney is getting a plan that fits your needs and wants instead of a bunch of boilerplate you could print off the internet. Do you have a family business you hope to pass on or sell? Do you have emerging health issues that you want to be sure you can get the best care for? Are you planning on helping your grandchildren pay for college? Who should inherit the house at the shore? Ask yourself some questions about what is important to you, and goals will start to emerge.

Once you have set your goals and started to communicate them to your family, stop and listen. Don’t let your family members take you on a guilt trip or try and persuade you to fund their start-up instead of donating to your favorite charity, but try and understand what they would like you to prioritize and why. Be aware that thinking about your death may be so difficult for certain family members that they act out by arguing about money in order to distract themselves.

The Hardest Part

After you have warmed everyone up with a chat about money, it’s time to talk about your end of life care and funeral plans. It is critical you share this part of your plan with your close family members, especially if you are asking one or more of them to serve as your estate administrator or giving them power of attorney over your affairs.

This conversation may cause a lot of drama, but it is better for it to happen now, when you are here to mediate disputes than after you are gone. Contact a skilled estate planning attorney to ensure that all of your bases are covered after death.

Posted in: Estate Planning