Inheritance battles can create new conflicts, inflame long-standing resentments and squander assets intended to make heir's lives better. What can families do to prevent family fights and estate battles when a loved one's intentions aren't accepted is the question asked in the recent article, "Warning Signs Of Estate Disputes—And Ways to Avoid Them," from mondaq.com.
Here are the more common scenarios leading to family estate battles:
There are steps to take to minimize, if not eliminate, the likelihood of estate battles. The most important is to have an estate plan in place, including all the necessary documents to indicate your wishes. You may want to include a letter of intent, which is not a legally enforceable document. However, it can support the wishes expressed in estate planning documents.
Does your estate plan still achieve the desired outcome? An estate plan from ten years ago may not reflect current circumstances. This is especially important if the family has experienced significant changes to finances or relationships.
For some families, giving with "warm hands" is a gratifying experience and can remove wealth from the estate to avoid battles as everything's already been given away. The pleasure of seeing families enjoy the fruits of your labor is not to be underestimated, like a granddaughter who can buy a home of her own or an entrepreneurial loved one getting help in a business venture.
Warring factions within a family are not likely to resolve things on their own, especially when cash is at stake. Appointing a family member as a trustee could cause them to become a lightning rod for all of the family's tensions. Without beneficiaries' confidence, accusations of self-dealing or an innocent mistake could lead to litigation. Prevent family fights by removing the emotions by having a non-family member serve as a professional trustee can lessen suspicion and decrease the chances of legal disputes.
Depending on the severity of the dynamics, this could range from annual meetings with an estate planning attorney to explain how the estate plan works and discuss the parent's wishes to monthly meetings with a family counselor. Families with a history of disputes often do better when a professional is involved.
For some families, a no-contest clause in the will can head off any issues from the start. An experienced Austin estate planning attorney can recommend this provision based on knowing the family and how much wealth is involved. However, if people are incredibly litigious, this may not be enough to stop them from pursuing a case.
The biggest mistake is to sweep the issue under the proverbial rug and "let them fight over it when I'm gone." A better legacy is to address the problem of the family squabbles and know you've done the right thing.
As we head into the holiday season, efforts to bring families together and prepare for the future will allow parents, children, and grandchildren to enjoy their time together. Book a call, and let's discuss protecting your family's legacy and harmony.
Reference: mondaq.com (Nov. 4, 2022) "Warning Signs Of Estate Disputes—And Ways to Avoid Them"
(By Appointment Only)
14425 Falcon Head Blvd
Austin, TX 78738