Parents often feel like they spend much of childhood trying to keep their kids from fighting, encouraging them to just get along. Unfortunately, that does not always end when childhood ends. In fact, many siblings will fight over the estate after their parents pass away.
Maybe you already see some signs that the kids will not get along. They tend to bicker at family events. They do not live near one another, so they do not see each other too often. They have very different personalities, and you watch them clash. Perhaps some of those old childhood relationships are still alive and well, from the younger child who resents the older child to the child who feels neglected, as if you had a favorite all along.
As a parent, you want to do what you can to stop these fights before they begin. Here are four tips that can help:
1. Talk to the kids before drafting your will
You may be surprised to learn what your children want or expect. You may be able to identify potential conflicts in advance — two kids who both want the same assets, for instance — and work with them to find a solution. Just knowing their expectations helps you draft a will that matches.
2. Plan too early
If you think it’s too soon to make your estate plan, it’s probably a good time. Do not leave it to the last minute. Some fights happen when siblings believe a parent was not mentally fit to draft and sign a will. Doing it before there is any question can help stop some accusations of undue influence and the like.
3. Make updates to your will when needed
Do not let your will become outdated. Major life events require updates. For instance, if you get divorced, you need to alter your will. If you buy a new house or any other significant property, you need to update your estate plan. Items that do not get included in the will can cause disputes because children have to figure it out on their own.
4. Divide assets fairly
The top reason that children fight over the inheritance is when one person does not think the will is fair. If you leave $500,000 to one child and $100,000 to the other, you can rest assured that the child with $100,000 will wonder why they did not both get $300,000. If you are going to divide things unequally for any reason, it is critical to talk about this with the children in advance. Do not let them find out as they read the will.
Estate planning is important for parents at any age. Make sure you know all of the options you have to make things go smoothly for your children.