If keeping peace in your family is near the top of the list of estate planning goals, you’re not alone. Most people care deeply about their family getting along when they pass away. Unfortunately, most people don’t know how to set things up to maintain the harmony that’s so important to them and it’s all too common for fights to erupt after losing a loved one, often dividing the family for generations.
There are a number of ways to maximize the possibility that your family will remain conflict-free after you die. It begins with a comprehensive, clear estate plan that leaves no question about your wishes. Get specific about your end-of-life choices, funeral and burial/cremation wishes, and the distribution of your property, large and small. Make sure that all of your wishes are in writing, and that the right people will know where to find these details when something happens to you.
The next step is communicating your expectations to your family. You may even want to get a written agreement, signed by each family member, that they will not contest your wishes. A qualified estate planning attorney can help you with this.
Your written estate plan should also have a built-in problem-solving procedure, so that any questions or differences that come up can be resolved without getting lawyers and judges involved. We all know that once you bring lawyers into things (especially litigators), the cost and conflict escalate quickly. We’ve heard many stories from families where a loved one passed away and the lawyers got most (or all!) of the money.
If your estate goes through probate, it’s much easier for people to fight. If maintaining harmony is important to you, you may want to consider setting things up to avoid probate so it’s harder to contest. A Living Trust can often keep things out of probate.
Another way to promote peace and harmony once you’re gone is to draft your estate plan to require your family to attend a Family Conference before any distributions are made. This mandatory meeting, typically conducted by a skilled lawyer/mediator, can help address issues that are bubbling below the surface and set the stage to keep things as friendly as possible in a difficult situation.
For more information about keeping the peace in your family, schedule a Personal Consultation or register for one of our upcoming Estate Planning Workshops today!
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