It is an unfortunate reality that family members might engage in unproductive and damaging disputes about a person’s estate plan after his or her death. Often, this involves people who believe they were entitled to certain properties as part of the will, trust or other device and did not receive what they expected or are disappointed in the allocation. There are strategies that the person creating the estate plan – the testator – can use to avoid this.

Steps to prevent an estate plan from stoking contentiousness

While generally categorized as a battle between siblings, this can involve anyone including former spouses, friends and business associates. People who create an estate plan may alter it with the passage of time. That can account for grandchildren, divorce, changes to assets, purchases, sales, collectibles and more. Still, people may miss important parts of their portfolio and their plans do not match what the family members expect.

Many issues can be settled through communication. Siblings may have disagreements as to how the estate is handled. One might want to sell a property for the proceeds while the other wants to retain it. There may be expenses that need to be paid and there is discord regarding how it that is dealt with. Having a financial blueprint to account for potential problems can keep the implementation out of the hands of the heirs. For example, the testator can say that a home is to be sold. This can avoid the parties fighting over it. Having a list of the assets and other financial parts of an estate is key. Contact information, personal information and lists of how property is to be distributed is useful for clarity.

Some testators allow their heirs to be part of the estate planning process. This can give a guideline of what the heirs want and if it is reasonable and feasible. Some family members might have interest in heirlooms while others do not. There could be a business that one child wants to take charge of while the others have little to no interest in it. The process does not need to be secretive if the testator wants to prevent rancor.

Legal assistance and guidance can be beneficial

Cobbling together a comprehensive estate plan is fundamental. This can address any issue that is concerning. When thinking about how to formulate an estate plan whether it is through a will, trust or any of the seemingly endless alternatives available, a legal firm can provide guidance and advice throughout the process. Calling for a consultation is the first step.