No one wants their family to fall into turmoil over an estate dispute. Nonetheless, despite the best intentions of decedents, surviving family members fight over wills, trusts and other estate administration issues all the time. A few steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of conflict in your family include:
- Choose neutral fiduciaries: Whether you are choosing an executor or a trustee, selecting a family member to fill this role can cause problems. By choosing a neutral party (an estate planning lawyer or other professional, for instance) you can ensure that decisions will be made free from biases within the family.
- Consider liquidating assets: If you sense looming disputes over the value of certain properties you wish to bequest, you may wish to consider liquidating those assets. Cash is much easier to divide than disparate properties. Of course, you will want to consider other important factors such as potential appreciation and sentimental value before making such a decision.
- Be clear with your language: Ambiguity in estate planning documents creates fertile ground for family disputes. Vague language can give rise to disputes over property. It can also create uncertainty regarding your medical wishes, leaving your loved ones to make vexing decisions on your behalf. Make sure your wishes are made clear in regard to inheritances, your medical wishes and other important matters. Well-drafted wills, trusts, powers of attorney and other documents are a necessary component of an estate plan that is clear and precise.
Careful planning in all stages of the estate planning process can help you ensure that your loved ones do not face contentious and expensive disputes when it comes time to administer your estate. If you have questions about this process and what you can do to ease the process for your family, discuss your needs with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney.