Unfortunately, families dealing with an inheritance often engage in fighting or suffer hurt feelings. Effective estate planning typically deals with financial realities but should also address the more difficult issue of preventing family disputes.
There are many reasons that a parent’s children suffer animosity. These include their lack of communication which leads to skepticism on the handling of their parent’s estate. Also, they may disagree on when or if assets should be sold or kept and who should pay the final expenses.
Estate plans are typically changed when children become adults and more responsible. They also have different needs and responsibilities, such as their own family, that need addressed.
While addressing these issues, a thoughtful estate plan can also deal with a family’s emotional situation. First, creation of a financial overview can help beneficiaries know what you own and where it is owned. This overview can also allow you to communicate with your executor and future beneficiaries which helps reduce suspicions and skepticism that decisions were secretly made.
A financial overview requires creation of an inventory. It should include a list of all assets and liabilities which also identify how these are titled and their beneficiaries.
Other items address access. These include contact information for all legal, financial and insurance professionals involved with your estate and usernames and passwords for all websites and electronic accounts that your beneficiaries will need to access.
Next, you should have a family meeting with the parents and all the children who will inherit assets. Agenda items may include your intentions for your estate, identifying the executor and other involved individuals and why they were selected and stressing the importance of family members communicating and being open during the inheritance process. Make sure that one trusted person knows the location of your important estate documents and other information.
The meeting should also include nonfinancial items that you wish to pass on. Stress how you tried to develop a fair plan and your hopes that the family stays together during the inheritance process.
An attorney may have experience with dealing with estate matters and their impact on families. They can help develop a plan that meets your needs.