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How to Avoid A Family Feud: Estate Planning 101

How to Avoid A Family Feud: Estate Planning 101

pen and last will and testament document

Advanced estate planning can help ease resentment and prevent family feuds over inheritance while preserving the wishes of the deceased. By ensuring the appropriate documents are in place, intentions are clearly communicated, and all property is included, people can reduce the chances of family discord after they die.

The Right Estate Planning Tools for the Job

A will serves as a guide for the allocation of assets, but wills alone may not be enough to prevent disputes between heirs when a loved one dies. In Illinois, wills do not enable an estate to avoid probate, which can be expensive and can take up to a year to complete. Many estate planning attorneys recommend also including trusts, powers of attorney, and advanced medical directives in estate plans to save time, money, and reduce the opportunity for disputes to arise. With a revocable living trust, for example, an entity is established and assets are placed in the trust to be transferred to the designated beneficiaries when the grantor passes away. This streamlines the distribution of property and property that is included in the trust avoids probate.

Appointing the Right Executor

Appointing a corporate trustee to serve as the executor of the estate can help prevent family feuds. Since neutral third parties are less likely to be accused of abusing their powers, suspicion and jealously between heirs is minimized. If a family member is chosen to be the executor of the estate, explaining the reason why that person was selected can help ease tensions.

Including All Possessions

Taking stock of all possessions and specifying how they should be distributed ensures anything with sentimental attachment or financial value goes to the right person. Discussing the allocation of assets with family members ahead of time ensures there are no sudden surprises for heirs.

Deciding Appropriate Timing for Asset Distribution

While it’s common for an inheritance to pass to a surviving spouse and only be distributed to children after the husband or wife dies, or to have portions doled out at specified intervals, these actions can create a long wait for remaining heirs. When assets are tied up for decades, frustration and resentment can build.

It is not easy having estate planning discussions with family, but communicating openly and honestly about the decisions that were made can lessen the chances of a conflict in the future. 

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