You’ve probably witnessed a family feud erupt after the death of a parent, whether in your own family or with someone you know. Your estate plan is about more than managing assets at disability or death, it also should include strategies for preserving family values, traditions, and relationships.
What Are Some Common Causes of Family Conflict?
Unexpected Greed: The inherent desire to “get their fair share” may spawn uncharacteristic selfishness in some children, resulting in fierce conflict with potentially devastating consequences.
Fiduciary Selection: The choice of “who does what” may impact family harmony more than “who gets what.” Some people see the role as an honor; others as an unenviable chore. One of the most important reasons for seeking our professional assistance in designing your estate plan involves the choice of successor trustees, agents, and executors/personal representatives (“successor agents”), and the potential effects of those choices on family relationships.
The Forgotten Plans: Oftentimes, parents forget to plan for an item, or forget they told a child they could have it. These situations may seem trivial, especially when the item has little monetary value, but we’ve seen intense, expensive family battles fought over “stuff” most of us would consider trivial or inconsequential.
The In-Law Factor: Careful consideration should be given to the potential influence of sons or daughters in-law. Hold family meetings with your children to keep the lines of communication open, to educate them about the financial and legal aspects of your plan, to share your expectations, and to express your hopes for family harmony when you’re gone.
Other Sources: These include family businesses and the importance of passing on control as well as ownership. Sources of conflict can also include ambiguities in the documents or the failure to provide basic information to the successor agent, such as insurance and account information, business interests, passcodes, safe locations and contents, keys, etc.
One of the most effective means of avoiding family conflict is to put everyone on the same team by selecting an independent fiduciary to serve as your successor agent. This avoids pitting family members against each other, and relieves them of the significant burden placed on the successor agent.
Additionally, consider holding family meetings to discuss your plan. This will preserve family harmony by preparing your children in advance for the orderly administration of your estate and educating them on the process, thereby reducing anxiety, confusion and even paranoia that might fuel the fire of family conflict.
If You Have Put Off Updating or Creating Your Estate Plan, Act Now
Preserving family harmony and unity after we’re gone may be one of the most important legacies we can leave our children and grandchildren.
At eLegacy, we offer complimentary consultations to review your existing estate plan or assist you in developing a new plan that addresses family unity as well as other important considerations necessary to you and your family.