When you write your estate plan, you do it with the best of intentions to make everything easier for your family. Sometimes, it just doesn’t work out that way. Instead of helping to guide your loved ones in a sad time, your estate plan could cause family discord if not handled properly.
Here are some ways your estate plan can reduce the chances of family disharmony after you’re gone.
Select the proper executor
Don’t feel obligated to choose based on family hierarchy, such as the oldest child, or on close personal relationships. The right person for the job is someone who is responsible, organized and has the highest ethics. There are professional fiduciaries for smaller estates and corporate trustees for larger ones. These are people who have no vested interest and know exactly how to process an estate.
Specify personal property in your estate that might have meaning to more than one heir
Holiday decorations, jewelry or even dinnerware can cause fights. To stave off battles after you are gone, ask your heirs what they’d like, and make the decision over who gets what when you’re still alive. Keep the list of how to distribute the property with your will and instruct your executor to sell the item and split the proceeds if the dispute cannot be settled. That thought could help your heirs split up an asset because oftentimes, the sentimental value is greater than the monetary value.
Make sure your surviving spouse is cared for financially
For others who will inherit money, such as your children, make sure you don’t keep the money tied up for too long if you don’t think your children can handle a big inheritance all at once. You might, for example, allow your kids to inherit part of the money at age 21, more at age 25 and the rest at 30.
Explain to your children why one is receiving more than the other
While having that talk might not be comfortable, it’s much better to tell your children why they aren’t all receiving the same amount as to leave them wondering when you’re not there to tell them.
Any estate plan – especially one you think could go awry – is important to do the right way. A California attorney experienced in such cases can help you create a proper plan to put your mind at ease.