Once their children enter adulthood, many parents revise their estate plan looking for the most effective way to distribute their assets to their spouse and, ultimately, their kids. But these plans sometimes fall short of preventing serious problems.
One of the most troublesome and avoidable consequences is a fractured relationship between siblings who dispute their parents’ estate plan. Many factors can lead to animosity during the inheritance process, chief of which is poor communication.
How to avoid sibling animosity
Children are often left in the dark over their parents’ estate plan until the estate goes to probate. Despite a lack of communication, other issues routinely emerge over selling and managing property. Kids can also battle over who should pay for final expenses. Parents can usually avoid these issues by following three steps:
Getting experienced advice: Hiring a knowledgeable estate planning attorney is the best way to create a plan that protects your family’s best interests. Your lawyer can help you find a plan that protects your assets from medical bills, lawsuits and other threats while seeing that they are transferred as efficiently as possible to the next generation.
Creating a financial inventory: An overview of everything you own helps your executor communicate your thoughts and wishes with your beneficiaries to minimize conflicts. Your inventory should include:
- A complete list of assets, liabilities and insurance policies, the beneficiaries for each and how they are titled
- Usernames and passwords for any digital accounts or websites your beneficiaries will need to access
- A list of legal, financial and insurance professionals and their contact information
- A “legacy letter” to express your thoughts over nonfinancial items you’re leaving your kids
Scheduling a family meeting: Once you establish a plan, sitting down with all your heirs to communicate these wishes can help avoid future family squabbles. The meeting should:
- Inform those closest to you about your estate plan
- Let everyone know who you have chosen as executor and why
- Letting at least one person you trust know the location of all your estate documents
- Encourage everyone to communicate during the process and be honest about their feelings
- Discuss nonfinancial or legacy items and how you decided who gets what
Leaving a legacy of love and trust
These steps can go a long way toward minimizing any future conflict between your children and helping them maintain a close-knit relationship after you’re gone. Your attorney can help you draft a plan to give you peace of mind while you’re still here to support and enjoy your family for many years.