You could have the best of intentions and even the best estate plan possible. But if your heirs haven’t been told what you have in mind, you may create a legacy of bitterness and family discord, according to Forbes in “How to Keep Your Heirs from Fighting Over Your Estate.”
You’d think talking about your intentions ahead of time would be easy enough, but many people choose not to do so—regardless of what happens. Research shows that fewer than 33% of people discuss their estate plans with their children. More than 20% of bequest recipients fight over inheritances. But 63% of families reporting no disputes over inheritance issues tell surveys they’ve had advance notice of what to expect. And more than 80% believe they were treated fairly. Talking about your plans with the people involved can make a huge difference.
If the terms of your estate plan are unique (and even if they’re very standard), speaking to everyone involved is critical. For example, if you plan to leave 80% of your estate to one child instead of splitting it 50-50 between both sons, let them know your rationale for your decision. The more your heirs see your logic, the less apt they’ll be to contest your estate plan. Plus, if there’s a conflict, you’re still around to help work out the issues.
At Family Estate Planning Law Group, this is why we strongly encourage our clients to hold a Family Care Meeting. At a Family Care Meeting, clients have the opportunity to outline their estate plan and the roles of each heir or fiduciary. Did you give your sister a power of attorney? This is your opportunity to ensure she knows what that responsibility means and what your wishes are in case of your incapacity. Are you leaving money from an IRA in trust to a nephew? You can let him know why you’re leaving him that money in trust and the advantages of leaving it there.
It’s not just advantageous for you, either. Ensuring your heirs understand the benefits of leaving assets in trust—bankruptcy, divorce and other protections, for one thing—can mean they save later on taxes. And you’ll feel more confident knowing they understand your wishes for your assets and in case of any health care emergencies.
If your family includes some members who can’t get along with others, there may be nothing you can do about preventing any arguments, but for most families, speaking candidly with your heirs now will have a big impact on how the family manages after you have passed. At the very least, you will have peace of mind knowing that you made the effort.
For more on the Family Care Meeting and Family Estate Planning Law Group’s unique process, explore our website and contact us to schedule your consultation today!
Reference: Forbes (October 31, 2016) “How to Keep Your Heirs from Fighting Over Your Estate”